What is more stereotypical for Valentine’s Day than chocolate and dates? Maybe not the kind of dates I’m featuring here, but I’m all for taking advantage of themes when they jump in front of me like that. I decided to combine Valentine’s day and Family Day to continue my muffin theme.
Our particular family celebrates Family Day at least a dozen times a year. No stat holiday needed here! One wintry Saturday, some of our tribe came home to pickle beets and can applesauce. That’s one of the perks of marrying a produce farmer, see? While everyone else in the neighbourhood is frantically trying to get all their preserving done in August and September, we sit back and fold our hands and rest. Yeah, right. I’m kidding, okay? Have you ever been around an apple orchard in September and October? It’s nuts. Positively nuts. We know we will have good sauce apples later in the winter, so why add that to our autumn stress load? Anyway, in our hurry to get the first batch of apples cooked, we, um, scorched them a bit. That kettle had a thinner bottom; we were eager to get the sauce going after the beets were done and turned the burner too high, and… it burned. Yeah, I’m going to come right out and say the bad “B” word. Now what? Should we throw it away? Of course not. We are Mennonites; our frugality is next to cleanliness, which is next to Godliness, so we are duty-bound to save it. We added a bit more unburnt sauce to the burnt stuff, and my son-in-law wrote BB (Burnt Batch) on the lids, and we canned that stuff. It wasn’t a strong burnt taste, just a hint of it, especially if you knew it was there.
We agreed that the best use of the burnt sauce would be in the applesauce muffins that Steve’s mom would make for the Harvest Celebration Festival that we used to host at the farm in the Fall. She would make dozens of them in the mini muffin size for our food tent, and the kids would eagerly reach for them. The original recipe uses only applesauce and chocolate chips, but somewhere along the way, Mom added a cup of natural bran to it, which was a good move, I thought. This particular day I was hankering after date bran muffins and thought “Why not add dates as well, and cut back on the sugar?”. I divided my batter in half, snipped dates into one bowl and chocolate chips into the other one. I may have thrown a handful of chocolate chips into the date half for good measure. Bingo. That should please everybody. Then I topped them both with a sprinkle of brown sugar and either a date or chocolate chips, with a nod to both Valentine’s Day and Family Day.
It’s a large batch, so after I had filled two muffin tins and still had about two muffinsworth of batter left, I greased a mini loaf pan and poured it in there. Aw, how cute that little loaf was. The finished product reminded me of a date cake mom used to make that had a yummy brown sugar and chocolate chip topping. Does anyone else remember that one? I think some people used to make a similar one with applesauce.
We used Cortland apples for our sauce this time; often we use a mixture of red apples like McIntosh, Empire, Cortland, Ida Red and Spartan. Cortland is an all-round good baking, eating, and sauce apple. It’s a great eating apple while it’s crunchy, and superb for sauce once it softens. Its characteristics include a red/green streaky skin and a very white interior.
Note: I am excited to link this recipe to one that tells you how to make the simple, unassuming applesauce. It will be released on Monday in honour of Family Day and will include a special memory from a Martin Family member about the early days of growing and selling apples. Watch for it!
This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The recipes, views, and stories are my own.
Applesauce Date Bran Muffins with Chocolate Chips
DirectionsWhisk eggs lightly in a large mixing bowl; add brown sugar and oil. Add applesauce and bran and whisk again, then add the dry ingredients that have been stirred together in a measuring pitcher. Whisk gently until smooth. Stir in desired additions. If using half dates and half chocolate chips, divide the batter in two. Fill greased muffin liners or cups 3/4 full. Sprinkle with additional brown sugar, and a few chocolate chips or a date half. Bake at 375° F for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes a generous 2 dozen.