These Southern apple coconut crumb muffins make for a decadent dessert

They’re topped with a buttermilk brown sugar glaze.
[ LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI | Special to the Times ]
Published Sept. 4, 2019

This Southern recipe is a standout, with a caramelized brown sugar buttermilk glaze that complements the apples, coconuts and pecans and takes a simple muffin to a decadent dessert.

My homemade spicy apple pie spice really pairs well with the apples, but you can keep it simple and buy a good storebought version if you’d like.

You can quickly make this muffin batter by hand in just minutes. These sturdy muffins are good travelers, perfect to pack for school lunches, a hike in the park, a tailgate supper or to bring to a potluck. Serve on a plate with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on the side.

What are the best baking apples in season right now? My favorite pick are Honeycrisp apples. This variety of apple, bred in Minnesota in 1960, is sweet like honey and bakes crisp but is still tender to the bite. It is my favorite apple to bake with.

Why can Honeycrisp apples be more expensive than other varieties? When it comes to the growing process, Honeycrisps require lots of attention on the trees in the orchard. The harvested apples must be stored at a mild temperature for 5 to 10 days, instead of going straight to cold storage like most other varieties.

Since the Honeycrisp apple is so loved, farmers are starting to cross other apples with them to produce new varieties that are easier to grow and store but are still sweet and crisp. One of the new varieties is Pazazz, also bred in Minnesota. This hybrid fruit is harvested later, lasts longer and is arguably both juicier and crunchier than Honeycrisp.

What are some other good apple choices? Jonagold is a 20th century apple variety, a mix of Jonathan and Golden Delicious. This apple has a sweet tart flavor and buttery-yellow flesh. The famously green Granny Smith is available yearround and has a puckery tart flavor that makes your mouth water. I think it works well with a combination of apples to offset the tartness. Pink Lady, another hybrid, is a super-crisp apple that has a rosy hue and a sweet-tart balance of flavor. Gala apples are also available most of the year, are inexpensive and have a mildly sweet and soft flesh.

Apples are sometimes grown exclusively in certain areas of the world. New York has the Esopus Spitzenberg apple grown in the Hudson Valley. This apple, with the flavors of lychee and roses, has been widely thought of as the most flavorful apple in America. It is an elusive variety

You can make your own Spicy Apple Pie Spice with the recipe below, or buy a good storebought version. To make, combine the following in a glass spice bottle or other sealable container, and store for your next recipe.

Spicy Apple Pie Spice

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons cane sugar (or granulated)

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground ginger

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1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)

Southern Apple Coconut Crumb Muffins

Southern Apple Coconut Crumb Muffins with a buttermilk brown sugar glaze
Southern Apple Coconut Crumb Muffins with a buttermilk brown sugar glaze [ LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI | Times correspondent ]

1 1/2 cups chopped apples, peeled, core removed, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/2 cup toasted sweetened coconut flakes

1/2 cup toasted coarsely chopped pecans

1 teaspoon spicy apple pie spice, see recipe above

For the crumbs:

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup melted unsalted butter, 4 tablespoons

1/2 teaspoon spicy apple pie spice

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the batter:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons spicy apple pie spice

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup apple butter

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, toss together the chopped apples, coconut flakes, pecans and 1 teaspoon of apple pie spice. Set aside.

Make the crumbs: In a medium mixing bowl, stir together all the crumb ingredients. Use a fork or your fingers and mix until crumbly. Set aside.

Make the batter: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 15 regular muffin cups with baking cups. Fill any empty cups halfway with water.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, both sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 2 teaspoons apple pie spice. Set aside.

In another large mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, apple butter, eggs and vanilla.

With a large rubber spatula stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture, mix just until smooth and thick. Drain the excess juice from the apple mixture and fold into the batter. Stir just until everything is combined.

Fill each muffin cup to the top. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs on top of each muffin, gently push into the batter. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes until golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then remove to a half sheet pan.

Make the glaze: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the brown sugar, buttermilk and vanilla, bring to a slow boil. Stir constantly for about 1 minute until slightly thickened and the color deepens. It should be a pourable consistency. Immediately pour the glaze over the muffins on the half sheet pan. Serve warm or room temperature.

Lorraine Fina Stevenski is a self-taught baker and award-winning recipe contest addict. This column features recipes that have been entered in contests across America and updated for readers who love to bake. Check out what she’s cooking and creating right now on her Facebook page, LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI. Contact her at