Local fields are ablaze with pumpkins and other winter squash for a few more days at least. The fall icon is, of course, good for more than just carving up for Halloween. As mentioned in this month’s Joy magazine, certain pumpkin varieties are suited to cooking, particularly baking.
But when it comes to baking recipes for which a puree is needed, even the experts agree that canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling!) is basically the same. And it saves the cook all that labor over a whole pumpkin.
I guess any cook worth that distinction should wrestle a pumpkin into submission at least once. The last year I grew pumpkins in my garden, the harvest was slim. But I dutifully excised the tops, scooped out the seeds and strings, cut the flesh into wedges, peeled them and then simmered them in my Crock-Pot.
After all that work, I decided to just keep cooking the mixture past the point of a puree that I could have used in recipes and spice it for pumpkin butter, not a widely available condiment. I had my butter after pushing the pumpkin through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the fibrous lumps and bits of peel that marred the silky texture. Then I packed it into four half-pint freezer containers. Whew!
Needless to say, repeating that exercise hasn’t been high on my fall kitchen to-do list. If you want to experience whole pumpkin, stop at cutting it up and peeling it and just roast it with herbs and spices for a side dish.
But I do love pumpkin in baked goods, so like Susan Krebs, quoted in the Joy story, I reach for the Libby’s can. It works beautifully and, best of all, is a consistent product, unlike homemade pumpkin puree.
Try it in these muffins, which still have plenty of other hearty, whole-foods ingredients to satisfy the DIY cook. This would be a timely recipe to demonstrate for the newspaper’s Cooking on Camera video contest for a chance to win a gift certificate to The Kitchen Company in Grants Pass. Find more festive, fall recipes and entertaining ideas, including Halloween treats, on our newly updated Holiday 101 page.
Fall Harvest Muffins
1 cup butter (2 sticks), at room temperature and divided
1 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 1⁄4 cups dark brown sugar, divided
1 1⁄2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1⁄2 cup rolled oats
1⁄2 teaspoon, plus a pinch salt, divided
1 cup white whole-wheat flour
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice
1⁄4 teaspoon cardamom
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 apple, peeled, cored and grated (about 3⁄4 cup)
1⁄2 cup chopped, toasted pecans
1⁄2 cup dried cranberries
Heat oven to 375 F. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray or line with muffin papers.
To make topping, in a medium bowl, rub together 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of the butter, 1⁄4 cup each of the all-purpose flour and brown sugar, 1⁄2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, the granulated sugar, oats and the pinch of salt until crumbly and well-combined. Set aside.
To make muffins, in a large bowl, whisk remaining all-purpose flour with the whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, allspice, cardamom, cloves and remaining cinnamon and salt.
Melt remaining 1 1⁄2 sticks of butter. When cool, whisk butter in a bowl with remaining 1 cup brown sugar. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla, then stir in the pumpkin. Gently but thoroughly mix in dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated. Stir in the apple, pecans and cranberries. Divide batter between prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle a bit of topping over each muffin.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then finish cooling on a rack.
Makes 12 muffins.