Recipe: Pumpkin Muffins
Twice a month, Berkshire native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, titled “The Homemade Kitchen,” due out in 2015.
Happy Pumpkin Spice season!
Lattes. Cheesecakes. Lip balm. Scented candles. The world is sprinkled in cinnamon and nutmeg. Just walk down Stockbridge’s Main Street and Yankee Candle will happily remind you it’s time to LOVE pumpkin spice.
And I do. I live in the nearly Starbucks-free Berkshire bubble so I’ve never actually been tempted by the ubiquitous Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, but I’ve been scooping cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg with wild abandon lately. That spicy sweetness seasons these sunny orange days so well. (Of course, cloves and allspice are controversial but appropriate additions — you make the call). But I love the mixture even more with the bonus of actual pumpkin, which is usually not the case. And although you can buy cans of pumpkin puree year round, this week the little pumpkins appeared at farm stands and in front of grocery stores — the sweet round pumpkins marked sugar or pie (or, perhaps, depending on the farmer, something far more interesting like winter luxury or long pie) that are not for carving, but for eating. These pumpkins are inexpensive and easy to find, and because their flesh freezes beautifully, I roast up a big batch and stock the freezer.
To make your own pumpkin puree, cut small pumpkins in half, or larger ones in quarters. Scoop out the strings and seeds, and save the seeds for roasting. Bake the pumpkins flesh-side down on a greased baking sheet until they’re very soft when pricked with a fork, 75 to 90 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip the pumpkin pieces over (away from your face so the steam doesn’t burn you). Let them cool, and then puree in batches in a food processor. Freeze in quart-sized freezer bags for up to a year. Homemade pumpkin puree often has a higher water content than canned, so it’s good to drain it through a fine-meshed sieve before using it in a baking recipe.
One of my favorite ways to use pumpkin these days has been in these super simple pumpkin muffins adapted from Lisa Leake’s new book, 100 Days of Real Food. They’re whole grain, sweetened only with honey, and come together in just a few minutes. They’re also great out of the freezer, and if I pull muffins out of the freezer in the morning for the girls’ lunches, they’re as good as fresh-baked by lunchtime.
Adapted from Lisa Leake’s 100 Days of Real Food
Makes 12 muffins
1/3 cup unsalted butter
½ cup honey
2 cups whole spelt flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree (drained before measuring if you’re using homemade)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Stir in the honey and set aside to cool slightly.
2. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and crack the eggs right into the bowl. Add the butter mixture and stir with a few swift strokes until barely combined. Finally, add the pumpkin puree and combine with a few more strong strokes of the spoon. Divide the mixture between the muffin cups and bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into one of the middle muffins, about 20 minutes.