A Muffin that isn't Bluffin'

My apologies if Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" is now stuck in your head, but these muffins will be worth it. They balance delicately on the tightrope straddling the familiar and the foreign, with apples and cinnamon celebrating the beginning of autumn on one side, and tahini and cardamom whispering of middle eastern delights on the other. 

I wish I could say I came up with these myself, but the recipe that you will see below is only a slightly altered version of this Food52 recipe. That said, I think its original author, Posie, and I must have a connection, because she clearly shares my appreciation for the fantastic power of cardamom. 

Cardamom (specifically green cardamom, the most common variety) is under-appreciated in American cooking. It's all over Indian food, and Israeli, and Swedish even, but has only recently become relatively common in American cooking. Man, have we been missing out. This year alone I've made cardamom-scented cinnamon rolls, chocolate cardamom cake, and now these muffins. I'm not calling it the next pumpkin spice (which is just cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger), but they certainly play nice together (check out these if you don't believe me). 

As far as the other slightly unusual ingredient in this recipe, tahini, you've probably tried it in some form even if you haven't heard of it. Tahini is just sesame seed paste, and it's a common ingredient in hummus, salad dressings, all sorts of stuff. I've previously tried it in a sweet capacity in these chocolate chip cookies, but I prefer it in these muffins--the other spices tame the tahini a bit rather than letting it take center stage. 

Ok, enough talk. Here's the recipe!

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins with Tahini and Cardamom

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom*
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2-3/4 cup milk (the original recipe called for 1/2 cup, but the whole wheat flour benefits from a bit more moisture)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup diced, peeled apple (1 large or 2 medium)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners, or grease each tin.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and brown sugar.
  3. Whisk together the tahini with the warm butter until fully incorporated, then whisk in egg and 1/2 cup milk. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  4. Stir in the chopped apples. The batter may seem unreasonably dense at this point. You can add more milk, but know that even if you don't everything will be okay.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 cups. Don't be afraid to fill the cups all the way. I did and still ended up with some extra batter, which I promptly ate.
  6. Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes (I took mine out at 19), or until golden brown on the top and just set. The muffins should still look slightly under-baked.

*If you can't find ground cardamom in the grocery store, you can buy whole green cardamom and smash it in a mortar and pestle to get the seeds out, then toast and grind those (I use a little coffee grinder for my spices and it works great). It's a lot more work, but it's significantly cheaper and will make your house smell amazing, plus you will have extra cardamom left for making mulled wine or spicing up your Thanksgiving leftovers.