16 October 2014

Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin Muffins
Hey, so it's now autumn! Except some days, I don't believe it, especially yesterday, when it was still fairly hot out. Is this Indian summer? Whatever it is, it hasn't stopped me from making dinner soups like they're going out of season, or sipping on hot tea after dinner. I've also busted out the pumpkin puree so that I can share with you my favorite pumpkin muffin recipe.

I found this particular recipe from Muffin Top, who got it from Gourmet magazine. Do you remember that magazine? It was great and I'm still sad it's gone. The bright orange color of the muffins lured me in and I wasn't disappointed. This recipe is super simple and makes tall, moist muffins, not those squatty little pucks that drive me crazy. Best of all, you use the entire can of pumpkin puree so you don't have to store 1/4 cup of puree, only to have it rot in the depths of the fridge before you remember that it's there.

Pumpkin Muffins
The recipe's direction for mixing the batter is a bit weird, so I simplified it by mixing the dry (flour, spices, leavening, salt) and wet (pumpkin, eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla extract) ingredients separately. I also use my own combination of spices instead of a generic pumpkin pie blend. I like that I can decide to use more cinnamon one day, then turn around and make the next batch more gingery. In total, I use two-three teaspoons, not just one. One teaspoon isn't enough. And with a teaspoon of vanilla extract for added depth. You can leave the sugar as is, or you can decrease to 3/4 cup like I did this last batch. The recipe is included in this post to make the modifications clearer.

Pumpkin Muffins
Dear readers, I can't go another post without addressing this Extra Fancy (ooh la la) Vietnamese cinnamon from Penzey's spices. I was first introduced to it by a friend, Bob, who sent me a Penzey's spice gift box. This cinnamon is very spicy and strong; Penzey's recommends reducing the cinnamon in a recipe by a third if using this kind. I like to think that it justifies the price that way, though if you love cinnamon, go all out!

Pumpkin Muffins
Pumpkin Muffins
Next, fold the dry ingredients into the wet, then divide evenly into twelve muffin cups. Exactly twelve muffin cups. You can fill the cups up just about all the way without causing a disaster, I promise. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar (and add pumpkin seeds, if you wish), then bake.

Now, I have a secret to share with you. These pictures, while mostly accurate, are a lie -- I forgot to add the oil. Although I noticed that there wasn't quite as much batter as there normally is, I didn't realize my mistake until after I had stuck the trays into the oven (I blame Gilmore Girls). I expected a disaster, and wasn't disappointed. While still edible, this batch just isn't as soft and tender as it normally is. The tops are more craggy than usual and the crumb suffers. I would absolutely not recommend skipping the oil. Please.

Pumpkin Muffins
Here is what the muffins should actually look like if made properly. I promise, I know what I'm doing, most of the time.

Pumpkin Muffins
Despite the error, the flavor was still there. Not bad for a mostly fat-free baked good! (I can't believe I said that.) I hope you enjoy these as much as I have!

Print this recipe
Pumpkin Muffins
The Running Foodie version, adapted from Gourmet November 2006, adapted from the American Club

Makes 1 dozen

Ingredients -

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 teaspoons spices, using any of the following: cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, fresh nutmeg
1 15-ounce canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 - 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus an additional 1 tablespoon granulate sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Additional: Pumpkin seeds

Directions -
  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven toe 350°. Put paper or foil liners into 12 muffin cups.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 2-3 teaspoons spices in a small bowl. Stir together cinnamon and 1 tablespoon sugar in a tiny bowl and set aside.
  3. Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, vanilla extract, and 3/4 - 1 1/4 cups sugar in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.
  4. Divide batter among muffin cups, then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture (if using pumpkin seeds, top with seeds first before sprinkling tops with cinnamon-sugar). Bake until puffed and golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

26 August 2014

It's Still Summer

Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies
You've probably heard that pumpkin spice lattes are already available at Starbucks, and maybe you even know someone who already got one, and maybe even that person suggested that the lattes signify the start of autumn. Well, folks, it's still summer, and I'm not yet ready for it to be autumn. Considering that the high is still over 75° most days, I am right. If you don't want to take my word for it, autumn doesn't officially begin until late-September here in the Northern Hemisphere. Although I've continued ordering (hot) lattes at Starbucks all throughout summer, those lattes were not seasonal flavors. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies
So, in defense of summer, I present you with these Pink Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies from Martha Stewart. The bright flavor is perfectly summer with a balance of sweet and tart. Although winter is the season for citrus fruits, citrus is a flavor I tend to associate with summer, such as pitchers of freshly squeezed lemonade and lime cookies with confectioners' sugar coating. This recipe have been on my radar for a while, actually, but procrastination is my number one hobby. Finally, I get to cross them off my list!

Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies
Both the cookie and the buttercream contain grapefruit juice and zest. While this makes the cookie flavorful, the juice might be the reason the dough came out softer than sugar cookie dough should be, making rolling and cutting circles difficult. Despite baking the dough straight from the freezer, the cookies didn't hold shape in the oven. It also browned a little more than I would have liked, and I suspect that has to do with the oven temperature not being accurate.

What would I do to remedy the soft dough? I might add more flour next time, or decrease the egg yolks from two to one. I don't want to reduce the grapefruit juice since that's what gives the cookie its flavor.

Pro tip: Wax paper is useless for rolling out sticky cookie dough.
Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies
Mmm, buttercream! The fresh grapefruit juice really helps cut the cloying sweetness of the confectioners' sugar-based buttercream. Tinting it pink is optional.

The texture of the cookies improves the longer its stored, going from crunchy to soft. Then again, maybe they're supposed to be crunchy. Not entirely sure, but either way, the cookies are delicious.

Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies
I don't mean to sound Grinchy about the upcoming season. I'm looking forward to some things pumpkin, crunchy leaves in orange, red, and brown colors, crisp, cool temperatures, and apple cider. But since I don't work in advertising, I'm not going to rush it. When the time comes, I will have my celebratory pumpkin latte... If Starbucks hasn't already run out of syrup by then.

Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies

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