From 6 Bittersweets
Adapted from Annie's Eats
Makes 11 muffins
XIAOLU'S NOTES: Filling needs to chill for at least 1 1/2 hours, so plan accordingly. Cooled muffins can be sealed in an airtight freezer bag and frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw then reheat in an oven at 350 degrees F.
3 oz. cream cheese, softened [low-fat is fine]
1.5 oz. (Scant 1/3 cup) powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp unsulphured molasses
1/3 tsp pure vanilla extract
Rounded 1/2 tsp dark rum (optional)
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp flour
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into 6 pieces
2 Tbsp walnuts OR pecans, lightly toasted and finely chopped (optional)
1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz.) all purpose flour
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground cloves [1/3 to 1/2 tsp if freshly ground]
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Large pinch of ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
Scant 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup PLUS 2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp unsulphured molasses
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
To make the filling, combine all filling ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1 inch in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and place on a plate wide enough to hold the entire log straight and flat. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 1 1/2 hours.
To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and work into the dry ingredients with a fork or your fingertips until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Add in chopped walnuts and mix to distribute evenly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.
To make the muffin batter, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease top of standard muffin pan, then line with 11 paper liners OR skip the liners and grease the cups. Sift dry ingredients flour through baking powder into a medium bowl and whisk to blend; set aside. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine ingredients eggs through vanilla. Mix on medium-low speed or by hand until blended. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.
To assemble the muffins, fill the muffin cups just under full with batter, then sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each. Next, remove the frozen log of cream cheese filling from the freezer, slice into 11 equal pieces, then quickly place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin cup.
Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, then bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the upper muffin part (avoid the cream cheese). Let muffins cool in pans for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack. Let cool COMPLETELY before serving (the cream cheese filling will be very hot!).