Caramel-Apple Muffins

Ingredients:

1 (3-pound) bag small apples (12 to 14 apples)
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted and divided

Quick Caramel Frosting:

2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Peel, core, and cut 4 apples into 24 (1/4-inch-thick) rings. Sauté apple rings, in batches, in a lightly greased skillet over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove from skillet, and place 1 apple ring in the bottom of each of 24 lightly greased muffin pan cups.
  2. Peel and finely chop enough remaining apples to equal 3 cups. Set aside.
  3. Stir together sugar and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl.
  4. Stir together flour and next 3 ingredients; add to sugar mixture, stirring just until blended. (Batter will be stiff.) Fold in finely chopped apples and 1 cup pecans.
  5. Spoon batter evenly over apple rings in muffin pan cups, filling cups three-quarters full.
  6. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan, and cool, apple rings up, on a wire rack.
  7. Press the handle of a wooden spoon gently into the center of each apple ring, forming a 1-inch-deep indentation in the muffins. Spoon warm Quick Caramel Frosting evenly over muffins, filling indentations. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans.
  8. For Quick Caramel Frosting: Place all ingredients in a heavy 3-quart saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture reaches a pudding-like thickness. Remove from heat.

    Quick Caramel-Pecan Frosting: Prepare Quick Caramel Frosting as directed; remove from heat, and stir in 1 1/2 cups chopped toasted pecans.

    Quick Caramel-Coconut-Pecan Frosting: Prepare Quick Caramel Frosting as directed; stir in 1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut and 1 1/2 cups chopped toasted pecans.

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