A is for apple

Our neighbours have a newborn baby. It's their second child, so they sort of know what they are in for. I'm not sure whether that would make those first few weeks any easier, or any less exhausting.

I thought about making them a meal to help on those days when it's all been a bit too much. Then I realised, although we live in such close proximity to them (we live in a block of apartments), we know very little about their personal preferences. I don't know what they like to eat, or what they can and can't eat. I thought about making lasagne — a crowd-pleaser, easy to freeze and reheat — but what if their fridge is already bursting with five lasagnes from their existing support network?

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So, I thought, a safer bet was to bake. I looked in my fridge and saw that my fruit drawer was still being dominated by wonderful, small, flavoursome, crunchy apples. But far more than we can eat at their peak. Apple muffins it was then. Apple, spelt, oat and cinnamon muffins.

I skimmed through many different recipes from my collection, and considered some sweeter, cakey variations that were more of an indulgence. But in the end I went back to what I felt in my gut was best — something that relies more on fresh fruits and unrefined sugars to sweeten the mix, rather than masses of super-refined sugars. These muffins are packed full with apples, and a hint of banana. I used unbleached spelt flour, wholemeal spelt flour and traditional rolled oats. Coconut palm sugar, unrefined caster sugar, unrefined demerara sugar. Good butter, eggs, full-cream milk, natural yoghurt, and spices.

The mother, father and big brother certainly deserve a treat, but why not make it a nourishing one.

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I'm not a health-nut, I hope I don't sound like I'm preaching, but the more that I bake, the more that I believe we can make better choices and consciously select good-quality, nutritious ingredients to put in the things we make for family and friends.

I don't mean that everything has to be organic, biodynamic, artisan and award-winning. And I certainly am not saying to make it sugar-free, gluten-free (unless you are Coeliac), and fat-free. When I suggest to use good ingredients, I mean use the best that you can afford. When there is a less-refined option, seek it out. Keep it natural. People don't need (or want) to hear me extolling the virtues of the muffins I just gave them, but I do feel satisfied knowing exactly what I put in to them and hope that it will do more good than harm.

A crunchy top, and a moist, fluffy centre helps too.