Fall is here. In the mornings, mist hangs low over the fields. The cool, crisp air hits my lungs when I step outside. I sit, mug of coffee in hand, feeling the sun warm my sweater-clad shoulders. The flavors I want are aromatic, comforting ones. I want apple everything: apple pie, apple crisp, apple cake. I want moist, tender muffins laced with spicy cinnamon and lashings of bracing cardamom.
Muffins are often dry and overly sweet, but luckily, today's recipe for cinnamon apple tahini muffins is anything but. Instead, they teeter between snack and dessert (unlike many muffins, which fall squarely in the cake category).
To keep the muffins moist, I use brown sugar. Because brown sugar has more molasses in it than white sugar, it has a higher moisture content, which therefore creates softer, moister baked goods. And for an even more tender interior, I stir in tahini, which (much like adding any other wet ingredient—butter, applesauce, oil, and so on) makes baked goods less dry and creates a softer, almost squishy texture, its nuttiness an added bonus that complements the sweetness of fresh apple. Then I add cardamom, in addition to cinnamon, for extra spice. You can leave the cardamom out, or add other spices: Nutmeg and allspice would be delicious. As they bake, the fruit melts into custardy, delicate pockets of sweetness.
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If there's something nicer than a bite of this muffin, with the sweetness of baked fruit, the heat of cinnamon, the tender crumbles of cake, first thing on a chilly fall morning—I can't imagine it.