Thursday, October 27, 2011
A few weeks ago rumors circulated that there might be a pumpkin shortage again this fall. Did you hear that, too? I'd expected that might be true for some of the storm-battered eastern states, but I decided to check the Michigan State University agricultural extension service site and here's what it said, "Reports of lower than average yields of pumpkins are coming in, but the quality of the fruit and 'handles' is excellent."
Isn't it cute how they refer to the pumpkin stems as "handles"? Pumpkin farmers must be fairly whimsical folks, don't you think?
Anyway, whenever I happen to meander down the baking aisle this time of year I try to remember to grab one or two of the plump orange cans. Can't let October slide by without producing at least one batch of really good pumpkin muffins.
In light of that, I thought I'd take the opportunity to try out a slightly adapted version of the pumpkin muffins in Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Even if I've mentioned this book to you in the past, I have to say again how sumptuous it is. It's a large, lush book with recipes that are not only well written, but simply-structured. Nothing real way out and exotic, just page after page of enduringly appealing recipes. And even if you never bake one thing from it (but why would you not?), it's pretty enough to live on your coffee table.
For these muffins, I followed Levine's basic recipe but decided to omit the raisins and sunflower seeds altogether (my younger son, Nathan, heaves a pathetic sigh whenever I add raisins to anything), added in some chopped sweetened coconut and pecans instead, slightly increased the amount of salt, and reworded the instructions. The assembly process is not like that of a typical quick bread, but more reminiscent of the way you'd assemble batter for a butter-based cake. You'll definitely need your mixer. These muffins puff up beautifully and aren't overly sweet. They call for pastry flour, which can be tricky to find though I see it with increasing frequency in gourmet markets and in health food stores, and superfine sugar, which seems to be more readily available now in regular supermarkets (the kind I buy comes in a paper carton). I assume these muffins would still be really good even if made with all-purpose flour and regular granulated sugar.
Pumpkin Muffins with Coconut and Pecans
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)
Yield: At least 12 generous regular-size muffins, or at least 24 minis
Preheat oven to 400. Grease, butter, spray with vegetable spray, or use paper liners in a 12-cup muffin pan or a 24-cup mini-muffin pan. (I just used paper liners for mine, but I sprayed the top of the pan--not the cups--so the muffin tops wouldn't stick.)
3 and 2/3 cups pastry flour, sifted
1 Tbsp. and 1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
scant 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt (Or use kosher salt.)
1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 and 1/3 cups superfine sugar
4 eggs, large, at room temperature, and lightly beaten
One 15-oz. can of solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
Mix together the coconut and pecans. Roughly chop them on a cutting board, not too finely. Separate out 1/4 cup to sprinkle over the unbaked muffins.
In the large bowl of your mixer, beat the butter on high speed for approximately one minute, until it looks creamy. Slowly add in the sugar, still on high speed, and beat until its color lightens and it looks kind of fluffy; this should take about 5 minutes. Be sure to stop and scrape bowl and beaters periodically.
Add in the eggs gradually, beating until well combined. On low speed, add in the pumpkin. Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled. Still on low speed, add the flour in thirds, beating just until smooth. Pour in the 3/4 cup of chopped coconut and pecans pieces and blend just until evenly combined.
Using a portion scoop (an ice cream type scoop), divide the batter evenly into your muffin cups, mounding it high. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup coconut-pecan pieces over the tops.
Bake at 400 degrees, on the middle rack of your oven, for 10 minutes; lower the temperature to 375 and continue baking--perhaps 10 to 15 more minutes--until the muffin tops are nicely golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean.
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