I think Summer has now officially passed, and Autumn is here. Setting aside the weather signs (which would indicate that Summer peaked in April, and Autumn started in June), I've started to get a hankering for lethally sharpened pencils and a new satchel. I'm wearing brown leather loafers and dallying with leaf-print scarves and wondering for the tenth year running if I can pull off a floppy beret. Answer: probably still not, no. I'm starting to think that colours like burgundy and mustard are really quite charming, and fantasising about scuffing through crisp Autumn leaves on the first frosty morning. I can contemplate Winter and only see the good bits (Christmas, hot toddies, roaring fires), wilfully turning a blind eye to months of dark, dank, dampness. It must be September.
In food terms, this is where it all starts getting really good. Think of the fruit - apples, plums, pears, blackberries, all itching to be crumbled or pied or toffeed or caked. We can start roasting, stewing, casseroling and gravying again without any embarrassment. There are spices and squashes all bursting at the seams, chestnuts and chocolate and cheese. Ah, it's going to be great.
As sustenance while we pack, sort and bubblewrap our life before moving out of our flat, I made a quick batch of apple and cinnamon muffins. I love anything apple anyway - an apple pudding will always win over chocolate, in my book - and these were both a celebration of Autumn, and a fortuitous opportunity to use up the cooking apple kicking around the fridge.
With a crunchy sugared top and moist chunks of fruit, these were the perfect welcome to the changing season. They also made an excellent excuse for a cup of tea and a sit down amid the boxes and the mayhem, which is reason enough for me to love them. And the colours are very on-trend, don't you think? They go perfectly with my new September satchel.
Apple and Cinnamon Muffins
From Nigella Kitchen, with nuts left out
Makes 12 muffins
- 1 large cooking apple, peeled and cut into small chunks (or you could use 2 eating apples)
- 250g plain flour
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- 125g light brown sugar, plus 4 teaspoons for sprinkling over the top (or in fact I used demerara for extra crunch)
- 125ml honey
- 60ml runny natural yoghurt
- 125ml vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
Preheat the oven to 200C and line a muffin or fairy cake tin with paper cases. In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Then in a jug or another bowl, whisk together the 125g of light brown sugar, honey, yoghurt, oil and eggs.
In a final little bowl (hope you've got a dishwasher!), mix together the second teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 4 teaspoons of either light brown sugar or demerara, to form the crunchy topping. If you don't object to nuts, unlike a certain husband I could mention, chuck some in here as well.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, add the chopped apple and just mix it until combined - everyone always says very menacingly that it should not be overmixed, that it's better lumpy and heavy. I followed a tip from Smitten Kitchen and used a hand whisk to incorporate the dry ingredients quickly, without the need to stir more than once or twice.
Then spoon into the paper cases, sprinkle with the topping and bake for 20 minutes or until risen and golden. Let them cool in the tin for 5 minutes or so, then transfer to a wire rack until you're too impatient to wait any longer.