Back when we lived in Los Angeles, I used to make the trek out to this rural apple farm every year to get away from the city and feel like I was back home in Oregon again. You see, in Los Angeles there isn’t really a fall, not like there is in the rest of the country. The air doesn’t get crisp and cool, and the trees don’t turn vibrant shades of red and yellow and orange. At best, the leaves on some of the trees in my neighborhood would turn a dusty orange-brown and then fall off, but that wasn’t quite the fall experience I was looking for.
Depressed and longing for a sign of the seasons, I discovered this amazing little area on the way up into the mountains where fall actually happened. It’s called Oak Glen, and it’s a small farming community that has family-run apples orchards lining this little loop on a country road for a 5-mile stretch. Going apple picking there, drinking freshly churned cider, and enjoying actual cool weather was a real breath of fresh air and helped put my homesickness to bed. Now that I am living back in Oregon, however, I find myself missing those annual outings. While I do still have the fall weather, the colors, and the beauty of the season, the friends I used to share it with are all still back in Los Angeles, and I miss them. A lot. So I made these delicious buttermilk-based muffins to console myself, and they did a very fine job of making me feel better. They can’t replace the wit or kindness of my friends, but they taste so damn good that it provides a pretty solid distraction.
The McCormick Gourmet Roasted Saigon Cinnamon crumb topping provides the perfect crunchy textural contrast to the soft and moist muffins, and the tart cream cheese compliments the sweet glaze quite nicely. Plus the glaze and crumbs make for a really striking presentation, almost like each one is a lovely little cake made just for you. They’re very simple to make, as are most muffins, and their individual serving size and easy clean-up (no plate or fork necessary!) make for a great addition to the fall potluck table. So gather up those lovely autumn apples, a dollop of cream cheese, and little bits of sugar, butter, and spices, and bake something wonderful. Something that will fill your house with the smell of cinnamon, cake, and crispy sweet crumbs, and let everyone in it know with certainty that fall is in full swing.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin pan with oven-safe liners and set aside. To prepare the muffins, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt and set the mixture aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, and brown sugar until smooth. Add the honey and olive oil, then the eggs, one at a time, mixing until completely combined. Add the applesauce and mix well.
Alternate between adding the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture until everything is just incorporated. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese, milk, and sugar. Set aside.
In a separate small bowl, make the crumb topping by tossing together the flour, sugars, and cinnamon. Grate the frozen butter over the dry ingredients on the largest hole setting of the grater, and gently toss the grated butter pieces in the dry ingredient mixture until coated. Set aside.
Evenly distribute the muffin batter between the liners in the pan, filling them 3/4 full. Add a tablespoon of the cream cheese topping to the top center of each one. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the crumb topping mixture over each liner as well.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 17-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out relatively clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
Once cooled, prepare the glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar, brandy, and 1 tablespoon milk. If the glaze still feels too thick, whisk in 1 more tablespoon of milk. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled muffins and serve immediately.
Makes about 18 muffins.