Of all the Tuesdays with Dorie events I've had the pleasure of participating in thus far, I think these Pumpkin Muffins were quite likely the most straightforward, homespun, whip-it-up-and-enjoy-it yet. No blowtorches, no fancy ingredients, no techniques that require "mastering." Just good old-fashioned mixing-bowl low tech, and it made for a nice change of pace.
To me, there are few things as comforting as a warm, buttery muffin on a chilly day. (Or any day, really.) Muffins are like personal cakes, but without the "dessert for breakfast" guilt of a sweet roll. And these muffins go one step further by actually being ~ dare I say it? ~ good for you!
Because I knew that the primary consumers of these muffins (that is, my children) would be put off by the presence of raisins, I omitted them. I would like to make a few different batches, experimenting with chopped dates, dried sweetened cranberries and blueberries, and dried apricots, but this week's muffin was free from all fruit except the pumpkin puree.
For nuts I used walnuts, though I think pecans would be delicious too. The sunflower seeds sprinkled over the top initially seemed like an aesthetic afterthought but turned out to be one of the best features ~ I thought ~ of the recipe. I'd like to try substituting pepitas for the sunflower seeds sometime. Also, I'd like to do a batch with granola sprinkled over the top.
I replaced half of the unbleached white flour with whole wheat flour, a swap that not even my children could detect ~ pumpkin is a very assertive flavor, so it provides a nice camouflage for the stronger flavor of whole wheat. I replaced the buttermilk with plain homemade yogurt, because that's what I had. I doubled the recipe and made half into jumbo breakfast-sized muffins and the other into standard snack-size muffins. I got a full two pans out of the recipe.
Cutting these open, I was impressed by how dense the crumb is. I can see why Dorie suggests toasting these ~ I have no trouble believing they'll hold up in the toaster oven. In fact, I'm looking forward to testing this out for myself come lunchtime today.
- As with all muffin batters, it's imperative to avoid overmixing. You can use your stand mixer for the wet ingredients, and even for introducing the dry ingredients, but I suggest following Dorie's advice and completing the mixing by hand. I shut off my mixer as soon as the last of the flour-and-spice blend was added, and then used a spatula to mix the rest of the batter. My muffins rose beautifully, in spite of the density of the crumb.
- You can use a spoon to fill your muffin tins, but for perfectly proportioned muffins, I love to use a spring-activated ice cream scoop. I have several in different sizes ~ one for mini muffins, standard muffins, and jumbo muffins ~ and I use them not only for scooping muffin batter into pans, but also for everything from cookies to meatballs.
- Good-quality spices are important in this recipe, as their flavors will be showcased in the end product. I used ground nutmeg from the Spice House, and Vietnamese, Saigon Cassia Cinnamon from the Savory Spice Shop.
- If you don't have buttermilk, you can substitute plain yogurt, or you can make sour milk by adding a tablespoon of white or cider vinegar to a measuring cup and then topping off with milk to reach the called-for amount.
Thank you to Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp for choosing these wonderful muffins! If you would like to make them yourself, the recipe falls on p. 13 of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours, and it can also be found on Kelly's blog. Be sure to check out the TWD blogroll to see what the other bakers came up with!