A gentler,  kinder pumpkin muffin made with olive oil, whole wheat flour,  mini dark chocolate chips and more.

I love pumpkin. Pumpkin anything. Perhaps because I have an October birthday?  (Yes, I just loved my big 6-0.)   Each fall for most of my adult life, I’ve made loaves and loaves of pumpkin bread. The recipe has come and gone, morphed and morphed. 2013 is no different.

This one, baked in my pumpkin pan, has pumpkin seeds on top.

Below:  my typical sweet muffin:

Sometimes my bread contains candied ginger and lots of nuts; other years it’s chock full of chocolate and dried cranberries. It’s always decadent, calorically-dense, and great with coffee. In the last year or two, I began making pumpkin muffins in large coffee cups just to gild the lily–

This “little” gem, complete with healthy dark chocolate” is in the new book.
But this year, I had a feeling that it was time to make a more intelligent muffin instead of something so closely akin to cake that I could have frosted it.  I wanted a muffin more like bread…a fast breakfast or snack I could feel pretty good about.  I just didn’t want to have to walk an extra hour to make up for one muffin.  I set about looking at every element in the recipe and determined what I could change and what I couldn’t.
  1. White flour –could be cut; whole wheat flour could be added. The texture would become more dense, but the flavor would truly improve. I would need to add a bit more leavening, in the form of baking soda, to prevent the bread from being too heavy.
  2. White sugar — could be removed totally; I could use 1/3 the amount of brown sugar for similar sweetness, but less calories.
  3. Eggs — I could cut the fat and cholesterol by using 2 eggs and 4 egg whites instead of 4 whole eggs–without sacrificing anything
  4. Butter — I would remove it entirely.  In its place, I would use part olive oil and part applesauce, adding a tiny bit of extra olive oil to ease the loss of the whole eggs.  2/3 cup of butter would become 1/3 cup + 2 teaspoons olive oil and 1/2 cup applesauce.  If someone really desired it, a  soupçon of butter or cream cheese could be spread on a muffin with no great harm done.
  5. Spices remain basically the same–lots of cinnamon (good for your health!), but I would switch from chopped candied ginger, which I often added, to grated fresh ginger.  I had the choice of peppers to add; I went with only black pepper. The ground cayenne could be added any time if you like.
  6. Chocolate and Nuts:  I kept both, but instead of cups of semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips, I used 1/2 cup mini dark chocolate chips and called it good.  Each muffin gets a strong, but mighty dose of heart-loving chocolate.  The nuts remain (from one version) for protein and crunch, though I  haven’t always used them before.

ABOUT CUPCAKES AND MUFFINS:

  Just for grins and giggles………….
When you try to determine the difference between a muffin and a cupcake, several things come to mind:
  • cupcakes are lighter in texture; muffins are somewhat heavier
  • cupcakes are made by a creaming method–beaten by hand or using a mixer; muffins are made by a quick bread method –generally just quickly mixed by hand as the fat used is liquid and needn’t be beaten (quick breads require mixing until just barely combined)
  • cupcakes are often (usually) frosted; muffins are spread with butter or cream cheese at the table
  • cupcakes seldom contain nuts or fruit; muffins usually do
  • cupcakes rarely contain whole grains; muffins many times include whole wheat, etc.
  • if you throw each at a wall, muffins go “thud;” cupcakes crumble apart in a “poof” (courtesy wikipedia)
  • cupcakes can be baked into a larger 8″ or 9″  or 9″ x 11″ cake; muffin batter can only be made into loaves
  • muffins are flavored with spices; cupcakes are not (with the exception of carrot cake cupcakes)
  • muffins should have dimpled (bumpy) tops; cupcakes should be smooth as silk
This year’s short-lived bread made in an 8″x4″ loaf pan.
One thing I’d always say about muffins is:  MAKE THEM WITHOUT PAPER LINERS.  I know it’seasier with paper and that Ina always uses them, but I’ll tell you from years of experience in baking…youneed the browning, crusty edge only obtainable by greasing a metal  muffin pan.  The immediate, close contact between the batter, the fat, and the hot pan create a crispy –nearly crunchy–texture on the outside of the muffin that makes a muffin well, makes it a muffin!  Otherwise it steams.  (So cupcake like…)
So here’s the version for this year’s daily breakfast eating and plain old snacking.  No longer only a treat, you could eat a couple a day and not worry a wit.  Further below is one of my recipes from  other years for your comparison—or baking—if you’re looking for a bread that’s sweeter, more springy, and–yes, full of BUTTER!
whole wheat cranberry-chocolate chip pumpkin muffins                                   makes 24 muffins or 2 loaves or 12 muffins and one loaf
 
INGREDIENTS:
  • 1/2 cup each dried cranberries and raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 2/3 cup low-fat milk (I like no-fat evaporated)
  • 2 cups white, all purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I like Penzey’s Vietnamese)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly and finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup mini dark chocolate chips
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease 24 muffin tins or grease and flour 2 8″x4″ loaf pans.
  2. Add cranberries and raisins to a small bowl and pour boiling water over them.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the wet ingredients: pumpkin, eggs, egg whites, olive oil, applesauce, brown sugar, grated ginger, and milk.
  4. In another large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients:  flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.  Drain cranberries and raisins; leave draining briefly.   Pour wet ingredients (egg-milk mixture) into dry ingredients and mix until just barely combined.
  5. Add walnuts, chocolate chips, cranberries and raisins; mix thoroughly.  Do not over mix.
  6. For muffins:  spoon batter into approximately 24 greased muffin tins.  For bread:  spoon into 2 greased and floured 8″x4″ loaf pans. (You can use 9″x5″ loaf pans for shorter loaves.)
  7. Bake muffins 15-20 minutes or until browned and just barely firm. Turn out onto racks immediately to cool.  Bake bread 45-65 minutes –depending on what size loaf you make– or until toothpick comes out  nearly clean.  Remove pans to rack and cool 5 minutes. Bang botttom of pan firmly, evenly, and thoroughly on the counter; turn out onto rack and cool completely.  Watch dogs carefully while the muffins or bread cool.
  8.  I made 12 muffins for us to eat and one loaf of bread for the dogs to grab off the counter and share.
As we’re sharing our space with two grand dogs, in addition to our own two dogs, I don’t really know who ate it. I do know who was eating the crumbs when I arrived. (Ziggy—the black one)

One of the earlier versions of alyce’s pumpkin breads

–luscious with lots of butter, sugar, and calories  (2010)–I do give the option to cut the fat w/ applesauce, which was part of the strategy to make the bread healthier this year.

Alyce’s Newest Pumpkin Bread Featuring Candied Ginger and Black Pepper.  OH, and Cayenne, too.

  • 1/2 c dried cranberries
  • 1 c boiling water
  • 2/3 c butter, soft (to cut fat, use half apple-sauce–no more than that)
  • 2 c pumpkin ( a can is 15 oz now; add applesauce to complete the  2 c)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/3 c candied ginger, minced
  • 2/3 c evaporated milk, low-fat or fat-free  (can use regular milk instead)
  • 3 1/3 c unbleached white flour
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 1/2 t salt  (sorry, left out of original post–corrected  11/18/11)
  • 2t Chinese or Vietnamese cinnamon
  • 1/2 t freshly-ground nutmeg
  • 1 t ground cloves
  • 1/2 t black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/4 t ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4-1/3 c salted or unsalted pumpkin seeds (I like salted)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F for bread or 400 for muffins. Grease and flour pans.  For muffins pans, grease only.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together cranberries and boiling water.  Set aside.
  3. With hand-held electric or standing electric mixer, beat together in a large bowl butter, pumpkin, applesauce, eggs, sugar and candied ginger until light and fluffy.  Beat in milk until well-mixed.
  4. On top of the wet ingredients, measure dry ingredients:  flour, soda, baking powder, spices.  Carefully mix just the dry ingredients with a spoon or rubber spatula, trying to avoid mixing the dry ingredients into the wet.  Using electric mixer, beat wet and dry ingredients together until just incorporated.  Don’t over beat.  Drain cranberries well and stir into batter gently.
  5. If desired, sprinkle pumpkin seeds into bottom of prepared pans (9×5) or baby loaf pans (3×5 or similar) or muffin tins.  Use ice cream scoop for muffins. 
  6. For loaves or baby loaf pans, bake at 350 for about an hour or half-hour, respectively.  Test for doneness with a toothpick or skewer; it will come out almost clean when the bread is done.  Leave in pans 5 minutes.  Bang bottoms of pans on board, floor or counter before turning out on to racks carefully to cool completely.   If sticking, use thin, sharp knife to go around edges.  When absolutely cool, wrap well in foil.  Store on counter 1-2 days, in frig for 2-3 days, and in freezer up to 2-3 weeks.
  7. If in muffin tins, bake at 400 F for maybe 15 minutes or until nicely browned and firm to the touch.  Turn out immediately onto metal cooling racks.  Follow storage instructions above, though muffins store well in large plastic containers that are freezer safe.
Sing a new song,
Alyce
IN MEMORIAM:  Rhonda Lundquist……….Blessing on the journey, friend...