Archive for November 6th, 2012

Better Than Starbucks Pumpkin Muffins

I’ve made these three times since my sister brought them for an October birthday brunch (a morning on which we could all get together to collectively celebrate 4 birthdays within a week) – sometimes stuffed with cream cheese, sometimes not. They’re delicious either way – dark and moist and mildly spiced – and fast to stir together, even at 4:20 as it was on one morning when I was on early traffic duty on CBC – this batter takes no time to whisk together and divvy into muffin cups before you hop in the shower. Your coworkers will thank you for it.

I’m working out of a cushy office with a mountain view this week – out in Jasper for the 24th annual Christmas in November festivities; the first weekend group had left on Sunday, round two arrived yesterday afternoon. My sleep-in was foiled by the time change, but having irreparably woken up at 6:42 am, I got to work in bed for the morning, and then treated myself to a visit to the spa for the best facial I’ve ever had (not that I’ve had many) – it was part excavation, part exorcism.

And – news! When I got back to my room, after lounging in the spa in a big plush robe with a stack of holiday food magazines (bliss!) and then sneaking up to the lobby in my sunglasses and greasy post-facial hair for a hot chocolate with whipped cream (!) and shaved dark chocolate (!) I came back to the room to follow the Taste Canada Food Writing Awards gala in Toronto-an event I had missed to be here in Jasper. Spilling the Beans was a finalist for best single-subject cookbook in English in Canada, and it won. Just wow. Chef Michael Smith’s book, Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen (Penguin) won in the general cookbook category, Unquenchable by Natalie MacLean (Doubleday) for culinary narrative and Made in Italy, by David Rocco (HarperCollins) for best regional/cultural cookbook.

Congrats to all. And after talking with Sue and celebrating with Michael and some champagne, I went to bed feeling like a real food writer.

But – back to the muffins. If you skip the cream cheese and sprinkle their tops with sugar before you bake them, they come out looking a little like molasses crackle cookies. It might seem like a lot of oil – we cut back on the original already – but you could probably cut it back further. Or remember that canola oil is a heart-healthy kind of fat, one that will keep your muffins deliciously moist.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

With thanks to my sister, and her friend!

Cream Cheese:
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. flour

1 14 oz. (398 ml) can pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour (all-purpose, whole wheat or a combination)
1 Tbsp. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg (if you’re not using pumpkin pie spice)
pinch allspice
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin, sugar, oil, egg and vanilla. In another bowl, stir together the dry ingredients; add to the pumpkin mixture and stir just until combined.

Fill paper-lined muffin cups and if you like, sprinkle with coarse sugar. If you’re filling them, poke a hole in the top of each with the handle of a wooden spoon and add a small spoonful of the cream cheese mixture. Bake for 25 minutes, or until springy to the touch.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen muffins.

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