Tuesday, October 21, 2008

{TWD} Pumpkin Muffins


The very best part of autumn is the coming of pumpkin season! Beginning in October, Einstein's Bagels sells their pumpkin bagels (along with pumpkin cream cheese and a pumpkin cupcake). And of course, the pumpkin pie is the star of Thanksgiving dinner (or at least it shares the stage with the dressing and gravy!)

About 15 years ago I found a pumpkin bread recipe in the New York Times (included at the end of this post.) It's become my standard, and is the second best pumpkin bread I've ever tasted. The best pumpkin bread is the "one that got away" - it was served at a big church gathering, and although I came close I never could quite track down the recipe. For me, really good pumpkin bread - or muffins - should be dark, moist, and dense, with lots of pumpkin and spice flavors.

For this week's TWD challenge, Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp chose a recipe for pumpkin muffins on p. 13 of Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home to Yours . Dorie introduces the recipe (originally from Sarabeth Levine) with this claim: "The best pumpkin muffins in New York.... They're so good they ought to be the standard for all pumpkin muffins in the world." I couldn't wait to see if these would live up to Dorie's hype! (You can find the recipe in Kelly's post if you don't have the book)


cook's notes

In order to gauge these highly-praised muffins, I hewed to the recipe as closely as I could. There were lots of things I was sorely tempted to change, but made only these minor variations:

a) substituted 1/4 cup ground Elliot pecans for the chopped nuts
b) used equivalent amount of eggbeaters rather than eggs
c) replaced the golden raisins with currants plumped in boiling apple juice - I used the fruit for half the muffins and left the other half plain
d) stirred in half all purpose flour and half King Arthur white whole wheat flour
e) sprinkled roasted pepitas on the tops- what could be more perfect for pumpkin muffins than pumpkin seeds?

- I used silicone muffin pans. These need no paper liners and no additional butter to line the muffin cups.

- My muffins baked at 375 for 19 or 20 minutes

- Any extra pumpkin puree can be frozen for a future use.

the verdict

These muffins have a fluffy and light texture and a delicate flavor of pumpkin and spices. They were well cooked and moist. We liked them a lot. I made them on the first crisp day we've had this year, and they did a nice job of ushering in the autumn feeling.


I've wrapped up the muffins and they are in the freezer. On October 30 my book group is having a taste test of these muffins and pumpkin muffins made by one of the other members. I'll report back!

In the meantime, however, I must admit that I prefer my usual pumpkin bread/muffin recipe to Dorie's muffins. It is denser and more flavorful. It's also lower in fat, as it's oil not butter based. I usually reduce the oil, by substituting plain nonfat yogurt (or fat free sour cream, or applesauce) for part of it. Using the "lighter flavor" olive oil boosts the monounsaturated fat ("good" fat), making for a relatively guilt free - but just as delicious - bread.

The pumpkin-to-flour ratio in the two recipes is very similar, but there are significant differences in the other ingredients. Dorie's muffins have 50% more egg and a third more fat than those from "my" recipe. This is what makes hers fluffier and less intensely flavored and mine denser and more pumpkin-y. The spices in Dorie's lean more to cinnamon/ginger, and mine more to cinnamon/nutmeg/clove.

Hmm, I think I need to invite Dorie over for a few bites of my pumpkin bread.

This is the trusty recipe I've used for years:

Victoria's Pumpkin Bread
from ‘The Dairy Hollow House Cookbook’

2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground ginger
dash allspice
6 cups unbleached white flour (can use half whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat)
1 c mild vegetable oil
½ cup yogurt (I often use ¾ c oil and ¾ c yogurt)
4 eggs or equivalent egg substitute
3 c sugar (can use part brown sugar)
2 ½ c. unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 c. chopped black walnuts (I never use nuts)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In large bowl, sift together the cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, baking soda, salt, ground cloves, ground ginger, allspice and flour. Set aside

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the vegetable oil, yogurt, eggs, sugar and pumpkin. Mix until smooth.

4. Combine the two mixtures and beat until smooth. Fold in the walnuts.

5. Pour the batter into 3 8x4 or 9x5 inch loaf pans (no more than 2/3 up the pan)

6. Bake for around 1 hour, or until the loaves shrink away from the sides of the pan and have a hollow sound when tapped. Test for doneness after 45 minutes.

45 comments:

Di said...

I used pepitas on top of my muffins, too. They worked really well. I also went with half white whole wheat flour--I love how you can't even tell that there's whole wheat in there. =)

Engineer Baker said...

I agree that a dense hit of spice and pumpkin is the best part of fall, so I think I'm going to have to try your standard pumpkin bread recipe. The muffins look wonderful though, with the pepitas on top.

natalia said...

Ciao ! Beautiful muffins ! I'll have to try your recipe ! What are eggbeates ?

Cathy said...

Nancy, your muffins look beautiful! I used half whole wheat flour in one of my batches, and will never go back to 100% all-purpose. I am eager to try your "usual" recipe, though. I loved Dorie's, but I did not find them to be particularly moist (although I didn't mind the crumbly-ness at all) and I would think that using oil would result in a moister muffin. Plus, the lower fat content is a big plus, especially if you lose nothing in flavor. Beautiful job on Dorie's -- I love the pepitas on top -- wish I didn't skip that final step!

lusciousfood.com said...

I completely agree with you; they're good, definitely, but not the best. Making a note of your recipe for my files!

Marthe said...

I'm glad you liked them, your bread sounds delicious: might have a go at it sometime!!

Amanda said...

I was having this conversation with a friend of mine. I'm not much for pumpkin pie, TOO much pumpkin for me and too dense. On the other hand, I love things like pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin butter, etc, with a lighter taste. When I made these muffins I was really pleased with them and will definitely make them again because they had a lighter taste. :) Yours look beautiful!

Laura said...

Your muffins look delish, Nancy! And thanks so much for your gold-standard pumpkin bread recipe - I'll definitely be trying it out soon. I thought the TWD muffins were really good, but the spices could have been kicked up a notch.

Kayte said...

I just love to come here for all the tips you give...so many things I never think of can be found here each week...what a gift! I am going to try your recipe as my family just loves pumpkin and I make a pumpkin bread each Thanksgiving...this year I think I will try yours...it's always nice to shake things up a bit!
www.grandmaskitchentable.typepad.com

n.o.e said...

Hi Natalia, Eggbeaters are a liquid nonfat egg substitute that is sold in the egg section of our grocery stores - maybe you have something similar? I use them in baking a lot to cut back on fat and cholesterol without affecting the taste.
Nancy

Audrey said...

I never thought about the oil being healthier - it just makes pumpkin bread (in particular) better! On the other hand, I don't like it as much in other things, like apple cake. You're so good at incorporating yogurt and eggbeaters and whole wheat flour...but it sounds like we're on the same pumpkin bread track. (I will make (and post) mine soon...thanks for asking!)
Audrey

chocolatechic said...

I thought that these didn't have a very distinct pumpkin flavor.

Yours look lovely.

Peggy said...

I like that you always try to healthy yours up! I love pumpkin bread too and will have to try your recipe for that. And I have never had a pumpkin bagel, but I can see how that might be coming to my house in the future to try! Your muffins look fabulous.

kim said...

they look great!! the pepitas were a cute idea. thanks for the pumpkin bread recipe, making a note of it!

Lady Baker said...

I am printing your NYT recipe as I type! Can't wait to try it!

Thanks for all the tips on the substitutions you did...I so admire the bakers who can substitute wisely (a talent I have no patience to practice by trial & error, so end up stealing ideas from seasoned chefs like yourself)

Your muffins look GREAT!!

pinkstripes said...

I like the pepitas on top. I'm not a big pumpkin and pumpkin pie fan, so I liked the subtle taste of the spices and pumpkin.

Your muffins look great!

Flourchild said...

I love your muffins. I have a pumpkin recipe I love so this one was hard for me to try. It was good but I like mine better!

Karen said...

Thanks for the recipe in your post. Your muffins look delicious!

Carol Peterman said...

Thanks for sharing the pumpkin bread recipe. I have one that I like, but I am happy to replace it with a better one. I will give it a try.

Prudy said...

I'd love to try that tried and true recipe of yours. It looks good with oil and yogurt. I prefer to use oil in quick breadas and muffins, just so much easier. The muffins look so yummy, especially with those pepitas!

Anne said...

Your recipe looks wonderful and I love that it uses oil instead of butter- I was just not that excited about softening butter for muffins! Your photos look beautiful- awesome job.

Michelle said...

lovely! where did you get your cake stand?

Matt's Kitchen said...

I am definitely going to try your recommendation for using half whole wheat, half all-purpose flour in the future. I also love the idea of plumping the currants in apple juice... a little extra moisture... alittle extra flavor...

Pretty cake stand, too!

n.o.e said...

Michelle, I found the cake stand at Marshall's last week. I love that I can change out the ribbon with the season or theme. Prudy has a similar one, I think? Matt, you could also plump the raisins in rum or bourbon, which I did when I made pumpkin frozen yogurt with the leftover puree.
Nancy

Lisa magicsprinkles said...

Thanks for your candid report. I saw your post on TWD and also used 1/2 ww & 1/2 ap flour and soaked my craisins and dates a little to rehydrate them. I think I'll try your recipe next time. Dorie's didn't especially live up to the hype in my book. Love the cake stand!

CB said...

How cute are those pepitas on top!? Love your cake stand. I might need to take a trip down to Marshalls this weekend ;) Great job!
Clara @ iheartfood4thought

AmyRuth said...

Your post is lovely and thanks so much for sharing a recipe near and dear to your heart (almost). Maybe the lady who posses "the one that got away" will see this post and come forward with your first most favorite. :<) Either way, I have a favorite as well, mainly because I like more pumpkin too.
AmyRuth

The Food Librarian said...

Oh, both recipes sound great! And I always love how you make yours more healthy!

Natashya said...

I was considering pepitas too. Glad you like the muffins, even though you liked your original ones better!

steph- whisk/spoon said...

a taste test--now that's pressure! these look great, and so pretty on the cake stand!

Annette said...

Yours came out beautifully. I liked these a lot. Thanks for sharing your favorite pumpkin bread recipe. I'm definitely going to try it!

natalia said...

Ciao Nancy ! Thank you for all the answers ! Your group sounds very interesting it would be nice to do something like it with my husband we'll have to wait for the children to grow a bit !(in Italy we study La Divina Commedia in the last three years of high school so long time has passed by !) In Italy we don't have any egg substitute at all !!!! buona giornata

Sherry Trifle - Lovely Cats said...

Excellent blog - I'm sure the book group is going to wolf those muffins down and thanks so much for the pumpkin loaf recipe. It's definitly on my make soon list.

SiHaN said...

i love the display stand you use the one with the ribbon intertwined thru. WHere did you get it from? I'm dying to know.

THe muffins look incredible!

Cristine said...

I'll have to try your recipe! I love anything pumpkin and could eat pumpkin bread all day long! :)

Sandy Smith said...

Your muffins look great! I love the pepitas idea - I'm planning to use them next time, and I didn't even think of currants. Great call!

As always, you have a wonderful post here! I so enjoy reading your blog. :)

Maria said...

I love the cake stand and of course the muffins look wonderful!

Fit Chick said...

Your muffins look delicious! And your pumpkin recipe sounds wonderful.

Liz said...

Your description of the dense, moist, pumpkin muffins you love has me drooling. I'm ready to go make pumpkin muffins all over again!

Marie said...

Your muffins look fabulous. I liked these muffins but, I also have a Pumpkin muffin/loaf recipe that I've been using for years that I actually like bettter. My own recipe is much spicier as well, although I did think Dorie's were very good.

Steph said...

Thanks for posting your stand by recipe. When I first saw the 1 cup of oil.. I almost freaked.. ahah but then I saw teh 6 cups of flour. I actually really liked the fluffiness of the muffins. Do you think its fluffier because there is more fat or because butter is used? I was thinking of substituting equal amounts of oil for the butter the next time I make this, but I want something fluffy. Hmm.. I guess I could always whip the oil and sugar.. I wonder what would happen. Seriously! Varying the ingredients can make such a big impact, but different mixing techniques of the same recipe can change it too.. there are only so many recipes I can test before I won't be able to fit my clothes!

n.o.e said...

@Steph, that's a good question. I'm not a food scientist by any means, but I think the egg actually has a lot to do with the fluffy/cakey texture. At least it works that way for brownie mixes! And whipping the oil and sugar can't hurt. I'm with you on the recipe testing. Making sweets weekly for TWD leaves me little time/available calories for other baking. I've read so many cool food blogs that my file of "Recipes to Make, Sweet" has gotten really big.

@sihan, I found the cake stand at Marshalls which is a discount chain here in the US. I love their kitchen section; I've bought all my hard-anodized pans there and some great stainless steel bowls, etc.

Nancy

Kristin said...

You have such a nice blog! I love how you give your reduced fat modifications. Cooking with Dorie goes through so much butter - I love reading about what you've done to try to minimize that a bit!

Steph said...

Nancy, I made the muffins again, this time following CI's pumpkin nut recipe (which is absolutely amazing!) Instead of the melted butter, I used oil to cut down on some of the saturated fat. I whipped the oil and sugar (I guess you're right.. it can't hurt). The texture ended up being pretty fluffy, which was great because I heard that oil can make things dense. Of course, it wasn't sponge cake fluffy, but fluffy considering how much pumpkin went in. I think I'm going to stick with oil based muffin recipes now, they seem to work well and help cut down on the saturated fat. I might trying making these muffins again, but not whip the oil to see if it makes a difference.

LyB said...

Pumpkin bagels, huh? Sounds intriguing! Your muffins look fabulous!