Posts Tagged ‘pumpkin’

Pumpkin muffins

We’re almost in what my sister likes to call Pumpkin Time. Yes, I know Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en are over, and we’re all pretty much over celebrating the harvest. She means Pumpkin Time in the Cinderella sense, as in turning into one — the year’s fun has peaked; it’s done. Pumpkin Time is where Autumn turns to Almost Winter.

November and I have an uneasy relationship. My birthday’s this month, and when I was a kid I usually had snow for my birthday, though not enough for a fun outdoor party. (I really feel that my spiritual birthday is in April, but never mind.) As an adult, this month is when I really start to feel the descent into cold and dark. My brain starts to really miss the sunlight.

In fact, the descent usually starts this weekend, when we turn the clocks back and trade a brighter morning for a darker evening. I hate that we mess with time like this; it’s one of the few reasons why I would ever want to live in Saskatchewan. I’ve done better in recent years in managing my seasonal affective disorder, but even so, to me November is the Month of Dread.

BUT! This week the weather has granted me a bit of reprieve. Sure, there’s more of a chill on the air, but the past few days here have been so sunny and golden. The leaves have turned but the trees are still half-full. I want these days encased in amber.

For now, Pumpkin Time isn’t so bad.

These muffins are a recent happy discovery. Lately I’ve been working on introducing Penny to new tastes, and it turns out freshly-baked tiny muffins are the perfect vehicle for new tastes. Warm? Check! Starchy? Check! Slightly sweet? Check!

To up the nutritional factor I used whole-wheat flour along with white, and applesauce so that I could get away with adding a bit less sugar. The molasses and spices give it a touch of pumpkin pie flavour. It’s a big hit with the kid.

Pumpkin muffins
makes 1 dozen muffins or 2 dozen mini-muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground clove

1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup  brown sugar
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. molasses
1 1/2 tsp. freshly-grated ginger root
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Optional: 1/2 cup of toasted pepitas or pecans, plus more for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a muffin tin; either with paper liners or lightly grease each well with butter or cooking spray.

Sift together all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (Or if you’re lazy, like me, you can measure all the dry ingredients into the bowl and then whisk to combine.)

In a smaller bowl, mix together the pumpkin, applesauce, yogurt and brown sugar; whisk together until the sugar is well incorporated. Add the oil, molasses and grated ginger and mix to combine. Last of all, add the eggs one at a time and mix just until combined. If you’re adding pepitas or pecans, mix them in now. Spoon the batter into each muffin well and top with extra pepitas or nuts.

Bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes (about 15 for mini-muffins) and let cool for five minutes before removing the muffins from the tin.

Serve warm. These are delicious with maple butter, apple butter, almond butter or just plain butter.

Do-ahead: If you want to make these for breakfast, mix up the batter the night before and keep in a covered container in the fridge. As a bonus, I’ve noticed that the flavour of ths spices is more developed if you do this.


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Pumpkin ginger pound cake

I think it’s safe to say that my recent move has changed my relationship to my stuff. In the weeks leading up to the big day, we had a yard sale and purged a ton of stuff. We dropped off loads of goods at the Goodwill. I even opened up the Boxes in the Basement. You know, the boxes full of lifetime detritus that you only ever look at when you’re packing up to move — and I sorted through them, culled some things, and made albums with old photos. I’m turning over a new leaf in my relationship with all the stuff I carry around with me, folks. I’m determined that if I’m going to have stuff in my life, I’m going to use it and enjoy it, not just resent it when it’s time to move.

All of this, in a roundabout way, was my motivation for making this cake.  (Well, that and a desire for cake.) I have this really cute jack o’lantern muffin tin, which of course only gets used at a particular time of year. This past weekend I realized that  it was the end of October and I hadn’t used it yet. And if the darned thing was going to get used this year, Sunday was the day. 

This recipe is adapted from a Fine Cooking recipe that came into my life many years ago, and its appeal stretches far beyond Halloween.

I normally bake it as a Bundt cake, but in honour of the season, and the pumpkin-shaped tin, I made cupcakes and baked the leftover batter in a small loaf pan. The original recipe is very nice, but since I am a lover of all things ginger I boosted the fresh ginger content a fair bit, and added some ground white pepper for a spicy kick.  

Also, the original recipe tells you to separate the eggs, whip the whites and add them at the end for maximum volume. This has some merit, and will make a lighter cake. But what cake-baking mother of a three-month-old has time for that, I ask you? We all draw our lines in the sand.

This cake is delicious with vanilla ice cream or some custard. It is also excellent on its own. If you have the willpower, it even ages well over a couple of days as the flavours develop. Just keep it at room temperature and wrapped in plastic or foil.

Pumpkin ginger pound cake
(batter will make one Bundt pan, 24 small-ish cupcakes, or 2 small loaves.)

1 cup unsalted butter, completely softened at room temperature; more for the pan
2 1/2 cups cake flour; more for the pan (I used all-purpose flour, and it turned out just fine.)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. table salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. ground allspice 
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin purée ( I roasted my own pumpkin, but canned will work just fine, too.)
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare your pans by brushing them with butter, then dusting with flour.

Combine the dry ingredients: in a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and spices; whisk to combine.

Make the wet mixture: in a large stand mixer, mix the butter at medium speed until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the brown sugar. Bringing the mixer back up to medium, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffly. On low speed, add the eggs, mixing  just to combine. Add the vanilla, grated fresh ginger, pumpkin puree and vegetable oil, and mix until smooth.

Dry meets wet: With the mixer on low speed, mix in one-third of the flour mixture and stir just until the flour disappears. Repeat with the flour in two more passes, making sure to scrape down the sides of bowl thoroughly. Mix just until combined.

Bake: Spoon the batter into your prepared pan (or pans). Your baking time will vary: 40-50 minutes for a Bundt cake, 20-25 minutes for cupcakes, and 30-35 minutes for loaves. In any case, to test a cake for doneness, touch the top in the center with your fingertip. It should spring back when you take your hand away. Alternatively, you can insert a toothpick into the centre of the cake.  If it comes out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, it’s done.

Let cool about 10 minutes in the pan, then invert the cake pan onto a cooling rack to finish the job.  To serve, a light dusting of icing sugar will make it pretty. But really, you’ll already have impressed everyone just by making this cake.

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