Cinnamon Apple Crumble Muffins

If you haven’t guessed already, I’m a little obsessed with apple cinnamon foods. Or maybe it’s my boyfriend’s influence. These cinnamon apple crumble muffins are one of his very favorite things to have for breakfast and with good reason. They’re light and airy, filled with juicy apples and topped with a crumbly crunchy cinnamon topping.

Cinnamon Apple Crumble Muffins

I also love creating traditions, so I whip a dozen of these up every year for breakfast on my boyfriend’s birthday. They pair wonderfully with a side of thick-sliced bacon, because everyone knows apples and bacon are basically meant to be together.

To make the original blueberry version, which is amazing, simply omit from this recipe the apples, cinnamon and nutmeg. I also use white and brown sugar for the crumble topping, where the original calls for all white sugar.

Cinnamon Apple Crumble Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

A dash of salt

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

A pinch of nutmeg (optional)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 apple, skinned and chopped

For the Crumble Topping:

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup butter, cubed and just barely softened

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400° and grease muffin tin or line with muffin liners.

Toss the apple pieces with a dash of cinnamon, put them in a cup of cold water and let sit for about 5 minutes, then drain. This helps the apples retain their moisture when they go into the oven.

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl. Then, in a liquid measuring cup, add the vegetable oil, egg and enough milk to bring it to 1 cup (you’ll end up needing about 1/2 cup of milk). Stir the liquid ingredients together until just combined, then fold it into your dry mixture just until the flour clumps are gone. Add in the apples.

To make the topping, mix all of the ingredients together with a fork so the mixture stays crumbly. Fill the muffin cups about 2/3 of the way full and sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top. Bake for 20-22 minutes or about 18 minutes if using a dark, non-stick pan. Test with a toothpick to see if they’re done. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Apple Crumble Muffins

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The Best Ever Homemade Brioche French Toast

I love taking simple dishes and bringing them to another level, maintaining that fantastic simplicity but heightening the taste. French toast has always been one of my favorite breakfast foods–the crisp, buttery flavor of bread dipped in a sweet cinnamon custard and griddled just right so it has those crispy swirls and designs. As you bite into it, the thickness of the bread has soaked up the eggy mixture, giving it that moist, fluff-like texture. Pour hot maple syrup over the top, add fresh berries, Nutella, bananas, whatever you like, and it’s hard to imagine any other meal quite so perfect.

Homemade Brioche French Toast

Brioche, a buttery, eggy French bread, is one of the best breads to use for french toast, as it’s thick, dense texture and slightly sweet flavor holds its own really well when dipped in the milk-egg custard mixture used to make this popular breakfast dish. So, I decided rather than going out and trying to find brioche at a bakery or grocery store, what better alternative than making my own bread?

With that, I set out to make my own brioche from scratch, then used that bread to make the best french toast ever. 

Homemade Brioche French Toast

I definitely encourage you to make this bread yourself. Although it takes all day and you will have to wait until the next day to have that glorious breakfast, it’s worth the time and effort (not to mention you’ll have a ton of fun doing it). I had a blast making this bread, and it was such a relaxing, peaceful way to spend my day off. If you don’t want to worry about making the bread or just don’t have the time, simply scroll to the bottom for the french toast mixture! Buy a loaf of thick sliced french bread, brioche, Texas toast or any other bread you like.

*Be forewarned: this entire dish calls for a lot of eggs, so make sure you have plenty on hand!

Let’s get started! I used Julia Child’s brioche recipe from Baking with Julia, and the french toast mixture is my own.

Homemade Brioche French Toast

Brioche 

The Sponge

1/3 cup whole milk, warm (about 100-110Âș F)

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

The Dough

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

4 eggs, lightly beaten at room temperature

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

Put the milk, yeast, egg and 1 cup of the flour in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer. (If you don’t have a large mixer, you can still do it with your hands. It’s tough, though!)  Mix the ingredients together with a rubber spatula, just until everything is combined. Sprinkle the rest of the flour over the sponge and set it aside for about 30 minutes.

You should notice that the flour sprinkled over the top will start to crack.

Brioche Dough

Add the sugar, salt, eggs and 1 cup of the flour to the sponge. Set the bowl into the mixer attaching the dough hook, and mix on low speed for a minute, until the ingredients start to come together. Continuing mixing, add a 1/2 cup more flour. Once the flour is incorporated, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 15 minutes. Scrape the bowl and dough hook as needed. If you are kneading with your hands, be sure to douse your hands in flour, as this dough is super sticky.

As the dough is mixing during that 15 minute period, the dough should start to come together and slap against the sides of the bowl.

Now it’s time to add the butter. Rather than microwave the butter to soften it into submission, take a rolling pin and pound it down until it’s flattened and soft, but not melty or warm. Put the mixer on low-medium speed and add a little bit of butter at a time.

After all of the butter has been added, increase the mixer speed to medium-high for a minute or so, then reduce the speed to medium and knead the dough for 5 minutes. If after a few minutes, the dough is still not coming together and is still quite sticky, add a tablespoon or two of extra flour. When you’re finished, the dough may still be slightly sticky and soft. This is perfectly fine.

First Rise: Move the dough to a large, buttered bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size, about 2-2 1/2 hours.

Second Rise and Chill: Deflate the risen dough by placing your hands gently underneath and working around the perimeter so that it sinks back down. Again, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place the dough in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours, during which the dough should almost double in size for a second time.

Once the dough has finished rising in the fridge, there are a number of ways you can go about preparing the bread for baking. I divided the dough into balls that fit snuggly in a buttered 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, placing eight balls into a pan (2 by 2 by 2 by 2). You should be able to get at least two loaves of bread in total.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly brush each loaf with egg wash (1 egg and 1 1/2 tbs of water), making sure not to let the glaze drizzle into the pan, as this will inhibit the dough’s rising ability while baking. The egg wash gives the bread that shiny look. With a knife or scissors, make a cross in each ball of dough. Bake the loaves for about 28 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer reads 200°F. Cool to room temperature on a rack.

Homemade Brioche French Toast

French Toast Mixture

3/4 cup milk

3 eggs

1 tbs heavy cream

1/2 tsp cinnamon (+ more as needed)

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Dip each slice of brioche (or any thickly sliced bread) in the mixture and hold for at least ten seconds on each side. The brioche is very dense and will need a while to soak up all of the custard. Then, fry them up on a large frying pan or griddle at medium heat with a generous amount of butter.

I love adding a bit of hot maple syrup and berries to my french toast. Enjoy enjoy enjoy!

Homemade Brioche French Toast

A Brief Guide to Loose Leaf Tea

It’s no secret that I am an avid tea drinker. There is something inherently good about sitting down to have a cup of hot tea, feeling the warm mug in your hands as the aroma of steeping leaves drifts into the open air. Sipping tea while reading a good book, working on a creative project or doing something you love really enlivens the soul, I think. With a few deep breaths and an atmosphere that comforts you, it can calm the nerves and bring you to a place that feels truly peaceful. And it certainly helps that drinking tea has quite a lot of health benefits.

A Brief Guide to Loose Leaf Tea

Steeping the Tea

If you want to make yourself a pot or a cup of loose leaf tea at home, you’ll need some sort of mesh tea infuser, either one that fits into your tea pot like a cup or a little ball that opens up for individual steeping. Different temperatures are preferred for different teas, but about 175° is optimal. You can find infusers really easily at places like World Market or Teavana. Black and oolong steep better at just slightly higher temperatures, around 195-200°. Heat up your water on the stove, pour it over the leaves into your cup or pot, wait about five minutes and take the tea leaves out. As a general rule of thumb, for every eight ounces of water, use one teaspoon for green, black and oolong tea and one and a half teaspoons for white.

Tea

Common Tea Types

Green

Green tea has a deep earthy flavor and is slightly bitter, but completely refreshing. Chalk full of antioxidants, it is also one of the healthiest, most beneficial teas out there. Add a teaspoon of honey to your drink if the taste of straight tea is too bitter for your liking, but you may grow to love the taste of tea alone (you totally will).

Oolong

Oolong has a smooth, soothing taste with only a mild bitterness. It’s like a huge breath of fresh air. Depending on the variety, oolong teas can have slightly fruity, flowery or earthy tastes and aromas. They mix well with almost any other flavor. Oolong is probably my favorite type of tea, with green tea in close second. It’s known for its benefits to skin, teeth and heart health.

White

Sweeter and more delicate in its flavor, white tea is a perfect match for fruity or flowery additions like peach, acaĂ­ berry or lavender. Also rich in antioxidants, white teas are known to help reduce fevers and help treat various skin ailments.

Black

This tea has a harsher, bitter flavor but is the perfect pick-me-up when in need of some energy, which is why many people drink black tea in the morning. The amount of caffeine in black tea is just enough to promote healthy blood flow to the brain without overexerting your heart.

If you’re looking for a tea variety without the caffeine, herbal tea can be a great way to go. The perfect drink to enjoy in the morning and at bed time, herbal tea has a more subtle quality to it and can really be made from basically any kind of herb or edible flower.

I am in love with mugs and have this odd attachment to the ones that I own, so I just have to add that teas (and coffees) taste so much better when they’re in big, cozy mugs. Being cozy is the best. Who doesn’t like that? Also, I will shamelessly promote enjoying your tea and buying it looseleaf from The Scented Leaf Tea House + Lounge if you happen to be in Tucson, Arizona. Happy sipping.Â đŸ”