I just love the incredible variety of apples that can be found at this time of year, compared to the four basic varieties you can get the rest of the year (Granny Smith, Macintosh, Gala and Delicious, I'm looking at you).
Of the seasonal apples, my favourite has got to be the elusive (and delicious) Honeycrisp. I don't know if its appeal has to do with the fact that it's only available for a short time each year, so that I have months and months to dream about my beloved Honeycrisps between the seasons... but more likely, it's because it's really a great all-purpose apple that's perfect for cooking or for eating out of hand. Either way, I plan on gorging on apples until all the yummy . :)
I think I must have been inspired by all the delicious caramel and candied apple posts on FoodGawker and Tastespotting when I dreamt up these cupcakes. They have all the appley sweetness of the original, but don't require any fussing around with candy thermometers and melted sugar, and they won't have you digging sticky bits of caramel from your teeth for the next two hours either. Win-win, right?
Oh, and a word of warning - these cupcakes will be totally irresistible when they come out of the oven, and you will probably be seized with the urge to snarf one down right then and there. However, no matter how delicious and wonderful they might look, you should wait until they've cooled off before indulging. Hot melted caramel is not your tongue's friend, trust me.
Caramel Apple Cupcakes
½ cup sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
2 medium apples, cored and grated (~2 cups)
¼ cup milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
¾ cup toffee bits (ie. Heath or Skor)
¼ cup toffee bits
¼ cup sliced hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 375F and butter the cups of a 12-cup muffin tin.
In a large bowl, beat together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Stir in the eggs, one a time, beating until combined. Add grated apple, milk and vanilla extract, and stir to incorporate.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add to the wet ingredients, stirring until just barely combined. Gently fold in the toffee bits.
Scoop batter into the prepared muffin tin, distributing evenly between the cups. Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl, and sprinkle evenly overtop of the muffins.
Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until hazelnuts are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in centre of a muffin comes out with a moist crumb. Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from the tin, then set on a wire rack to cool completely.