Apple Walnut Crunch Muffins

by admin - January 10th, 2013

At the Bee & Thistle Guest House in Vancouver we love to surprise our guests with a different freshly baked pastry every morning, even when they stay with us for two or three weeks at a time. This means we need a pretty big repertoire of muffin & scone recipes, and we are always looking for wonderful new flavors and ideas. But we do find that we fall back on our favorites whenever possible, and this Apple Walnut Crunch Muffin recipe is definitely one of the best – moist and dense, with a satisfying hint of spice and a crunchy topping.  Great for winter, too, when berries & other typical muffin additions are not at their prime.  This muffin recipe does take a bit more time than some, due to the apple preparation time and the crunchy topping, but they are not at all difficult and use very common ingredients that one would find in most kitchens.  We do always recommend good quality, wholesome ingredients, of course, such as organic unbleached white or whole wheat flour and free range organic eggs (we get ours from our daughter’s Bowen Island hobby farm whenever possible, although these particular chickens, unfortunately, are currently on strike and seem to be holding out for Spring!).  If you want to whip these up very quickly in the morning, it’s quite okay to mix the wet ingredients in one bowl, the dry ingredients in another, pop the thinly sliced apples & the topping in separate baggies, all the evening before, refrigerate the whole lot, then toss them together in the morning.   We like those big, tantalizing muffins that one would find in a high quality coffee shop, so we use a commercial pan with tiered sides to produce wonderful gigantic muffins with crunchy toppings. However this means that we only get 6 – 8 muffins from this recipe (double the recipe if you have more guests or use a pan with smaller muffin cups in order to stretch the recipe to 10 or 12 smaller muffins).  Note: don’t panic when you stir in the apples and discover that the batter looks like it has way-y-y-y too many apples – they truly do melt into the other ingredients and produce a very moist but light muffin.

Bee & Thistle Apple Walnut Crunch Muffins

                • 1/2 cup butter
                • 1 1/4 cup white sugar
                • 1 tsp. vanilla
                • 1/2 tsp. salt
                • 2 large eggs
                • 1/2 cup milk
                • 1 3/4 cup unbleached white flour
                • 2 tsp. baking powder
                • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
                • 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
                • 2 cups apples, peeled, cored and very thinly sliced (we use a mandolin on the thinnest setting)

Cinnamon Crumble Topping:

                • 1/4 cup white sugar
                • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
                • 3 tbsp. white flour, unbleached
                • 2 tbsp. cold butter, cut in small pieces or pop in the freezer for a few minutes, then grate on a coarse grater

Preparation: 

                • Preheat oven to 375 F.
                • Spray pans or grease with butter. Line with paper muffin cups to make them easy to remove.
                • Prepare the apples by peeling & coring them and slicing as thin as possible. 2 cups usually equals two apples. Set aside.
                • Prepare topping: in small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon & 3 tbsp. flour. Rub the butter in with  your hands until the mixture is crumbly. Set aside.
                • In large bowl, cream the 1/2 cup butter, then beat in 1 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then milk (if you put it in the fridge at this stage, the butter does go a bit lumpy, but don’t worry – it melts into the batter just fine when baking).
                • In another bowl, stir together the 1 3/4 cup of flour, baking powder, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and the walnuts. When ready to bake, stir the flour mixture into the liquid ingredients, just until almost blended. Toss in the sliced apples and stir again until the apples are well distributed but don’t over stir.
                • Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pans. Top with the cinnamon crumble.
                • Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
                • Allow to sit for 5 minutes before attempting to remove them from the pans. Cool on a wire rack. 
                • We serve these with butter cut into pretty shapes and home made Roasted Apple Butter.
Note to readers:  If you’ve been reading our blog, you will have noticed that the “Categories” on the right hand side of our blog have disappeared and therefore it’s not possible to search for a particular category, such as recipes or Commercial Drive restaurant reviews. Since we haven’t found anyone with WordPress skills who can fix this problem right away, we are reviving our blogspot blog and will post future blogs to that site as well as this one until we have this one working properly.  The link is: http://beeandthistle.blogspot.ca/. We apologize for this inconvenience and hope to have the problem fixed in the near future.

Another Great Reason to Visit Vancouver in January – Dine Out Vancouver!

by admin - January 9th, 2013

I don’t think we’ve ever had a guest at the Bee & Thistle Guest House in Vancouver who didn’t love our beautiful city, but even hard core Vancouver fans can understand that some prospective visitors might hesitate to visit in January or February. The words “Canadian winter” may conjure up images of freezing temperatures, snowdrifts, impassable roads, and maybe even an igloo or two. This does, of course, bring skiers to Canada in droves to experience our world class ski hills & other winter sport destinations, but can be a bit intimidating for more cautious travelers. However, Canada is a big country and those frosty conditions that exist on our ski hills, in our northern regions and on our prairie provinces are not at all what one would normally experience here in temperate Vancouver! We have been consistently voted as one of the most livable cities in the world for a variety of reasons, one of which is our moderate climate. Yes, we do on occasion experience a small amount of snowfall and occasionally temperatures could dip below the freezing level, but those times are rare and usually quite temporary. More often a visitor would experience a fair amount of rain, with an occasional and very welcome sunny day, but always with the option to visit one of our local ski hills should one wish to frolic a bit in the snow. So, invest in a good rain coat, grab an umbrella and come to Vancouver! Sure, the adventurous will be excited to explore our numerous winter sports – skating, curling, downhill skiing within 20 minutes of downtown or on a day trip to Whistler, or even a very romantic nighttime Chocolate Fondue Snowshoe trip at Mount Seymour (Dec. 15/12 – March 30/13). But if that’s not for you, it doesn’t mean you should cross Vancouver off your list, nor do you have to join the tourist crowds in the summer. A rainy day is a wonderful excuse for a true vacation day curled up with a good book in front of one of the many fireplaces we have in our guest rooms at the Bee & Thistle (always a good thing). But do venture out to explore our numerous cultural events which range from music & theater to such specific events as the upcoming Missions Fest Vancouver January 24 – 27th; visit our museums, art galleries and Granville Island when the lineups are much shorter; join one or more of our wonderful foodie tours (I love them!), or (my favorite) indulge in a week or two of exploring all the wonderful food and drink in one of the most “foodie” cities of the world!

A great way to do this is to take advantage of the wonderful “deals” offered during the Dine Out Vancouver Festival, which takes place all over the city from January 18 to February 3, 2013. If you’re planning to come to Vancouver during this period, it’s important to make your restaurant selection and bookings early as the favorites always sell out well ahead of time. Check out the menus at the following link link: http://www.dineoutvancouver.com/. Search for your favorite restaurant by name, by price ($18, $28 or $38 for a set menu usually 3 course dinner), by cuisine type, or by area of the city (“East Vancouver” covers most of the area near the Bee & Thistle, but we are also a quick drive or cab ride from those restaurants located in the Downtown, Yaletown, Coal Harbour and other central areas).

An exciting addition to Dine Out Vancouver in the last couple of years is “Street Food City II” event, which is an opportunity to try out our fabulous food trucks! This free event will take place at the Vancouver Art Gallery January 23rd – 27th, 2013. Check out the Dine Out Vancouver website for a list of participating trucks and times. I’m also very interested in the Railtown Culinary Walking Tour on January 25th & February 1st ($35 per person), which explores “some of the great establishments that are setting up in this gritty historic area” – an adventure!

If you’re staying with us at the Bee & Thistle on January 31, 2013, the I, Malvolio performance of the The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival is only a block away, and is combined with dinner at one of the newest restaurants on Commercial Drive – Merchant’s Oyster Bar, for $65 per person. The very popular Secret Supper Soiree is unfortunately already sold out, but Edible Canada at the Market is also offering some great events and wine enthusiasts may want to check out the Grape Debate at the Vancouver library on February 1st (find more information on all events on the Dine Out Vancouver website).