cider doughnut muffins on a cooling rack

I’ve had this here blog now for about two years. It’s turned into more of a blessing than I could ever have imagined — not to mention the fact that I’ve made a lot of recipe testers happy. I am grateful for what has happened and even more excited for where my baking adventures will continue to take me. And I’m grateful that you, dear friend, have come along for the ride.

One of my most faithful readers (and avid recipe testers) was my grandfather. Grandpa Jim would always be willing to try whatever I made, even when I was a little girl working my make-believe Meadowside Restaurant (complete with a handwritten menu) at his kitchen table. That man would eat whatever I put in front of him, even if it looked like inedible green slop. I like to think that in more recent years, my recipes were a little more appetizing. But I never had any doubt that my grandfather would be willing to sample something I made. And I beamed at his approval.

cider doughnut muffins on cooling rack

Grandpa Jim died on Friday. I was there to say goodbye to him, to hold his hand and pray for him in the last few hours of his rich, full life. There is no one in my world who can fill the void that my grandfather filled, and I am heartbroken. Even as I type this, my heart crumbles and I am reduced to a fountain of tears at the thought that I can’t give him one more recipe to try. I think he really would have enjoyed these muffins.

I made these muffins at a happier time, before my grandpa was in the hospital, hooked up to cords and monitors and unconscious. I made them when I thought he’d still have a chance to eat something I’d baked, so I didn’t put much thought into deciding to make these. If I had known — if I had just known that an e-mail, a phone call, a visit, a meal I prepared would be my last with him, I would have made it more worthwhile. I would have told him how dang much I loved him, how he meant more to me than I could ever describe, how he was the most loyal, the most selfless, the most loving and caring grandfather than any granddaughter could have asked for. And I would have made him a better recipe.

But I also know that, even if these muffins were made out of anchovies and gummy worms, he’d still eat them with a smile on his face and tell me how delicious they were. Because that’s just the kind of man he was. And I will never forget that kind of love.

cider doughnut muffin on plate

I don’t know how to end this. Endings are often messy, especially when they are so abrupt and unexpected — like ugly, jagged edges that pierce the very core of your being. I suppose all I can say is this: Love your loved ones like there is no tomorrow. Because sometimes, there just isn’t one. And find comfort in the knowledge that someone out there, near or far, loves you and what you have to give, whether it’s green slop or a plate of muffins.

To them, all of it is gold.

Cider Doughnut Muffins
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Yields: 12 muffins

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp thawed apple juice concentrate
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
2 2/3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup milk

Topping —
3 tbsp butter
6 tbsp cinnamon-sugar mixture

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (375 degrees F if using a dark, non-stick tin). Place baking cups in a 12-cup muffin tin and lightly grease the insides. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, thoroughly whisk together butter, oil, sugars and apple juice concentrate. Add eggs, beating to combine, until mixture is smooth. Stir in baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.
Add the flour to the butter mixture alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. Stir to combine well.
Spoon or scoop batter evenly into muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into one of the center muffins comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes.
Melt butter for topping. Dip the tops of each muffin into the butter, then roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place on a cooling rack to cool completely.