Spiced Apple and Brown Butter Muffins

by Jen on November 7, 2012

It’s very hard for me not to gush about these delicious gluten-free spiced apple and brown butter muffins! Just the brown butter alone adds a toasty, almost coffee-like background notes to these lovely breakfast cakes. Hints of almond, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom give warmth within the fruity sweetness of apples and woody overtones of the maple syrup. Also, I’ve added a serving of Salba, a type of ancient grain that’s grown in South America (and they’re gluten-free!) to give the muffins a significant nutritional boost. No worries, Salba is virtually tasteless and odourless, so it won’t change any flavour.

Here’s a little information about one serving (15 g or 2 tablespoons) of Salba: *Note: this is NOT a sponsored postI simply love Salba!

  • More heart-healthy, memory boosting omega-3′s than any other natural source with 3,050 mg per serving
  • More beneficial fiber than any other natural source (even wheat bran) with more than 5000 mg of dietary fiber per serving
  • Six times more bone-building calcium than whole milk
  • Fifteen times more magnesium than broccoli
  • Three times more immune boosting iron than spinach
  • Seven times more age-fighting vitamin C than an orange
  • More energizing potassium than a banana
  • Proteins superior in quality to those in wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley and soy
  • High levels of the same antioxidants found in disease fighting vegetables and fruits

We also got a bag of lady apples from our local market, and my younger ‘Tarteenie’ couldn’t stop eating them! Lady apples are crisp and tart – like Granny Smiths – but they are too tiny to grate into the muffins (we used red delicious instead). Needless to say, the little lady apples were reserved as toppings instead.

These muffins remind me of a Normandy cake, which is basically an apple cake made with local apples and butter. Normandy is in southwestern France. And for those of you who love history, this is where the D-day Landings occurred, along five strands of the Normandy coast. The landing beaches were: Sword, Juno (where Canadian troops landed), Gold, Omaha, and Utah. (Recommended movie: Saving Private Ryan).

This coming Monday, we celebrate Remembrance Day in Canada, which commemorates all the Allied troops who lost their lives during the D-day attacks. At my daughter’s senior kindergarten class, not only are they learning about the significance of Remembrance Day, but they are also talking about the bounties of the Fall harvest during their Science period. It’s a perfect time to combine the two seemingly separate topics and synthesize the learning into something they might remember easily. Food and history are always a good combination, in my opinion!

That said, over there in Normandy, they love their apples. You’ll find them in ciders, liqueurs, cakes, flans, tarts, etc. As well, butter places prominently in their culinary traditions, so expect that they make some of the world’s best.

As far as today’s muffins are concerned, I used two of Normandy’s traditional products, with special attention to the butter. European-style, home-churned butter is recommended for this recipe (although not a do-or-die situation) because they have higher fat content (84% compared to 80% in supermarket butter), plus they usually come from cows that are free to roam grassy pastures. I tell you, this makes for a wonderfully nutty brown butter. And if you wish – only if you wish – you can add a dash of Calvados (apple brandy) to give your muffins more of the desired Norman flair!

Don’t fret now, the muffins are coming your way…

5.0 from 11 reviews
Spiced Apple and Brown Butter Muffins
Recipe Type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 large or 12 regular muffins
A gluten-free muffin made with brown rice, almond, and sorghum flours. The addition of brown butter adds a toasty, almost coffee-ish background notes to these apple-and-spice muffins.
  • 1½ sticks (170 g) unsalted butter, preferably European-style
  • 1 to 1-1/2 apples (200 g), peeled and grated (we used Red Delicious)
  • a squeeze of lemon
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (160 g) brown rice flour
  • ½ cup (60 g) almond flour
  • 1 tablespoon (7 g) sorghum flour*
  • 1 tablespoon (7 g) sweet rice flour
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground Salba**
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground mace
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup (130 ml) raw honey
  • ⅓ cup (75 g) light muscovado or coconut sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon Calvados (an apple liqueur from Normandy)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider (or substitute with apple juice)
  • 2 tablespoons raw natural pistachios, crushed
  • lady apples for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
  2. In a small sauce pan, cook butter over medium heat until bubbly and a deep amber colour develops, about 8 to 10 minutes. It should smell like "noisette" or roasted hazelnuts. Set aside.
  3. Grate your peeled apples and squeeze some lemon on it. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together brown rice flour, almond flour, sorghum flour, sweet rice flour, baking powder, salt, Salba, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and cardamom.
  5. In a bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment or with a handheld mixer, whisk together vanilla extract, honey, sugar, eggs, Calvados, and apple cider for 1 minute, or until well-incorporated.
  6. Continue mixing on low speed and slowly pour the brown butter into the mixture. Increase speed to medium and whisk for 30 seconds more.
  7. Gently fold the dry ingredients to the wet, but do not overmix.
  8. Fold the grated apples into the batter. At this point, you can either let the batter rest in the refrigerator overnight, or you can also proceed to bake them.
  9. Line a muffin pan with paper liners or prepare your silicone molds. Using an ice cream scoop, uniformly fill each cup with batter, about ¾ full. If you wish to be exact, weigh the batter portions by setting your muffin pan or molds on a scale and pressing tare each time you put batter in the cup. I made my muffins at 95 grams each - it's on the larger size.
  10. Sprinkle with crushed pistachios and set a halved lady apple on top.
  11. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until tester inserted comes out clean.
  12. Transfer muffins to cooling rack. They will keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days, or up to a month in the freezer.
* If you cannot find sorghum flour, replace with tapioca flour, corn starch, or even white rice flour. **Salba is an ancient South American grain that is gluten-free, rich in omega-3's, calcium, magnesium, and fiber. It is referred to as "the perfect food" by Dr. Jack Bukowski M.D., Ph.D. of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital.


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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Choc Chip Uru November 7, 2012 at 6:17 am

I loved the health facts my friend, it makes these muffins just that little bit more enticing (not that they need it!)

Choc Chip Uru


Carol | a cup of mascarpone November 7, 2012 at 7:25 am

Great health facts, Jen! Stunning photos of a delicious looking muffin!


amy @ fearless homemaker November 7, 2012 at 9:33 am

I’ve never heard of Salba, but it sounds interesting – I’ll have to see if I can find it here. And those muffins look divine!


Jessica | Portuguese Girl Cooks November 7, 2012 at 10:24 am

These muffins are absolutely gorgeous, almost to beautiful to eat! Beautiful photos!


jaime @ sweet road November 7, 2012 at 10:32 am

Oh gosh these muffins are beautiful! I love your decorating!


Mom-Friday November 7, 2012 at 11:04 am

Beautiful muffins! I love that unique touch on the apple slice topping too. :) Half on the list of ingredients I don’t have, hahaha… so I need to improvise. My gluten-free projects coming soon!


Valerie November 7, 2012 at 12:37 pm

When he was six or seven, my dad’s house (in France) was liberated from Nazi control by a heroic group of American, British, and Canadian soldiers. His family was part of the resistance, so their arrival was nothing short of miraculous. (I doubt that they all came at once, but he always had a place in his heart for each…one soldier introduced him to peanut butter!) :)

If only he’d had a batch of these lovely muffins as a way of saying Merci! :D

As usual, your photos have transported me away from the chilly, damp weather and made me feel as though I’m sitting at a springtime picnic table somewhere in Provence. xo


Suzanne November 7, 2012 at 1:42 pm

These muffins look so cute with the lady apple in the middle. I love the use of the brown rice flour. I’ve never heard of Salba but it sounds interesting and healthy.


Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious November 7, 2012 at 2:21 pm

What gorgeous muffins! And I totally want to give this recipe a try – there’s a lot of ingredients I’ve never used before but I want to try gluten-free things so this is absolutely perfect!


Sandra's Easy Cooking November 7, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Oh Wow…Jen you did it again! what a great recipe and pictures are making me want some with my afternoon tea! Your muffins look so delicious, and presentation and styling just stunning! I bet your kids loved the little apple cut-outs on top…so pretty!
Enjoy the holiday!


Patty November 7, 2012 at 9:54 pm

These have to be the most gorgeous muffins I’ve seen! I will say a visual treat as well as a nutritional one .;-)


Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts November 7, 2012 at 10:21 pm

These muffins look perfect! Love how good they are for you too!


Laura (Tutti Dolci) November 7, 2012 at 11:42 pm

These muffins are seriously gorgeous – almost too pretty to eat! (But I think I could eat one or two for taste testing purposes ;))


Lisa {AuthenticSuburbanGourmet} November 7, 2012 at 11:53 pm

These muffins are STUNNING! I love the apple slice on the top. And they are healthy too? Now that is a super bonus!! Lovely photos!


suzanne Perazzini November 8, 2012 at 1:59 am

I love the splash of calvados. Great flavours all round. I must find some brown rice flour – not so easy here.


Jen @ Savory Simple November 8, 2012 at 8:58 am

Brown butter really does make everything better.


Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet November 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm

SWOON!! (1) Love your little one’s outfit! (2) OMG! That pan!! (3) How beautiful to place a whole half of the apple on top of the muffin! (4) brown butter… YUM!!


Tessa November 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Most beautiful apple muffins that I have ever seen… Gorgeous!


Nami | Just One Cookbook November 8, 2012 at 6:51 pm

I really think the sliced apple on top of muffins is so pretty and wonderful idea. One without and one with the apple slice, it makes a huge difference and you have such an eye to find the difference!! I wouldn’t probably come up with the idea at all! Lovely recipe, Jen! Happy Holiday!


Kiran @ KiranTarun.com November 8, 2012 at 6:54 pm

LOVE the styling!! Those are the cutest and tiniest apples I’ve ever laid my eyes on :)


Amy (Savory Moments) November 8, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Wow, I mean – WOW! These muffins are stunning! Lovely photos and recipe. Thanks for introducing me to Salba.


Irene November 9, 2012 at 2:32 am

gorgeous pictures and styling! the muffins look so good that i want them for a late night snack!


Ronja @ a dash of faith November 9, 2012 at 2:43 am

These muffins look stunning!


Magic of Spice November 9, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Oh wow! These are just gorgeous, love the apple slices on top, so pretty!
And love the history as well, yes food and history make a great combination :)


Glenda November 9, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Yah Canada! We have so many reasons to be proud of our vets and our apples!!! My husband and I walked Juno two years ago, saw all the Canadian flags waving proudly all over Normandy, visited the cemeteries so tenderly maintained by devoted And grateful French citizens. It was a humbling and sobering experience for certain. Thank you for reminding the world that it was our courageous Canadian soldiers that made that first landing, penetrated deeper than any other troop, and against all odds, surived and liberated France. Lest we never forget.
I’m going to make these beautiful muffins now in celebration of everything they did for us. Thank you for this post!!


Kate Koger November 10, 2012 at 3:27 am

Absolutely stunning photos and where did you get the tray from that the muffins are sitting in! It is STUNNING!! I am going to be sharing this recipe with my friends as I am sure they will love it too!! :D


The Squishy Monster November 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm

I will have to check Salba out…it sounds super interesting and as always, I adore your pics and recipe!!!


Lora @cakeduchess November 10, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Why I haven’t bought Salba before? Now I’m so interested in it and want to try your lovely muffins. The zoomed in shot is really tempting me to take a bite now:)These would be a sweet after school treat or breakfast idea.


Raymund November 11, 2012 at 4:16 am

Love how that looks, the apples and pistachios.


Maureen | Orgasmic Chef November 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

I’ve never heard of Salba. It might not be available here but I’m going to give it a try. My best friend has to be so careful about what she eats so I like having things in the freezer that I can warm up when she comes over for coffee (unannounced!) She’ll love these muffins.


Jean | Lemons and Anchovies November 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm

You’ve elevated muffins several levels with your (usual) beautiful styling. Love this, Jen. Anything with apples in it is a must-try for me.


Tina Ong (@PhenomenalMama) November 12, 2012 at 9:08 am

My mother-in-law loves buying those tiny apples for us. We are too polite to tell her we don’t really like them because we find them too tart. But I have to force everyone to eat it because I don’t want to throw them out either. Thanks for saving us! Now I now where to put those apples to good use!


Roxana | Roxana's Home Baking November 12, 2012 at 10:48 pm

I haven’t heard of Salba until now and you made me curious. Will have to see where I can get it from.
What a great breakfast treat and love the idea of baking the apple inside the muffin. Brilliant Jen


Heather November 14, 2012 at 5:04 pm

So beautiful Jen, those Muffins and apples are ADORABLE!

I am loving that muffin tin/dish (green one) where did you get that from?


Cass @foodmyfriend November 15, 2012 at 9:20 pm

These are really beautiful :) Love how petite they are!


Kelly @ Inspired Edibles November 30, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Just discovered your blog… i think i may be in love… ;-). I’ve been pinning like a fool! Happy to discover you.


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