James Beard Award-winning Cookbook Author

Apple Muffins with Browned Butter Streusel


A few years ago I was asked to judge a local apple cooking contest. The recipes were incredibly diverse and ranged from apple leather to apple pizza. But there was one recipe that stood out from all the rest: apple muffins. These were the lightest apple muffins I had ever tasted and they boasted a deep apple flavor along with a generous amount of diced sweet/tart apple.

The recipe won best in show, and when I asked The recipe’s creator how she managed to pack so much apple flavor into her muffins she told me she boiled down apple cider to concentrate its flavor. And what about the streusel topping? Why did it have such a nutty flavor? She browned the butter!

So here’s to make these fabulous muffins.


On the left, muffin batter with sreusel topping. On the right muffin batter unadorned.

Apple Muffins with Browned Butter Streusel ToppingMake the topping first so it’ll be ready to sprinkle on top of the batter.

Streusel topping
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar, light or dark
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Muffin Batter
1 ½ cups apple cider or juice
1/3 cup full-fat sour cream
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 ounces), spooned into the cups and leveled
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (4 ounces), softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 large sweet/tart apple, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch dice

  1. For the topping. Melt the butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan by its handle occasionally, until the butter has turned a nut brown and smells toasty. Watch carefully to prevent burning. Remove the pan from the heat and let butter cool to room temperature. In a small bowl stir together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add the cooled butter and combine well with a fork to make a crumbly topping.
  2. For the muffins. Boil the cider or juice in a heavy medium saucepan until it has reduced to ½ cup. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Whisk in the sour cream and vanilla.
  3. Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle level and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat a 12-cup standard muffin pan with cooking spray.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together thoroughly the flour, salt, baking soda, and cloves. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until it is smooth and creamy. While beating on medium speed, gradually add the sugar. Scrape the bowl and beater and beat on medium high speed for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. On low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the liquid in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat only until smooth after each. By hand, stir in the diced apple.
  5. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Sprinkle with the streusel and put the pan in the oven. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until the muffins are a rich golden brown color and they spring back when gently pressed in the center. Cool the muffins in their cups for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove them and arrange them in a basket. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 large muffins.