Cute Pumpkin Muffins

  • Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves: 6
  • Level: easy

‘…they’re sweet, tasty and rather cute muffins made with love. Just the kind of thing I would have helped Mum and Dad make as a munchkin around this time of year – running  around with pumpkin pulp and seeds stuck between my fingers!’

Leo Williamson
'Halloween has passed but we can still make use of the bright orange pumpkin that reminds us of spooky times...'

What you need

250 ml pumpkin puree from a can of prepared pumpkin OR 250 ml pumpkin pulp form 1 large pumpkin or squash (Freeze any leftover pulp.)

Alternatives are butternut, hubbard or crown prince squash or kaboocha pumpkin. Just over 3kg of deseeded pumpkin will produce about 3 cups of well-drained cooked puree.

125 ml plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 + 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground allspice

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup caster sugar

2 large eggs

125 ml ground nut oil

35g bran breakfast cereal blended to a crumb

3 tbs bourbon or pumpkin syrup (see method – both optional)

60g chopped walnuts and pecans

60g chopped dates

 

 

 



Dad's Recipe Tales

How Cooking Works

This recipe is adapted from an American cookbook, How Cooking Works – The Indispensable Kitchen handbook (1981). It was proudly given to us by my Dad.

As and electronics engineer, Dad would have responded to the logic of a kitchen ‘handbook’. He would assume it included matrices and tables and explanations on the physics and chemistry behind the formulas we know as recipes. In fact, the authors must have been over-awed by their self-imposed educational task; disappointingly the book resorts to the usual collection of recipes (though all very good). Prue Leith’s handbook’, The Cook’s Handbook (1981) does include tables – but unfortunately  the rigidity of tabular content detracts from its practical usefulness. Does cooking not suit scientific analysis?

Indeed it does. These days, there are many books on the science of cooking. My Dad would have devoured Peter Barham’s The Science of Cooking (2000), or Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, An Encyclopaedia of Food Science, History and Culture (2004). These books, and their kind, became indispensable for many modern chefs. The principles they espouse formed the bedrock of many pinnacles of fine dining – The Fat Duck, Noma, El Bulli et al.

I’ve always been practically minded and interested in science. I also enjoy applying new scientific knowledge to my cooking – it’s one of the reasons I enjoy cooking. But Mrs WDC (who often quotes my well-worn mantra: ‘cooking is chemistry’), would also say that I had good ‘hands’ for cooking. She must feel that cooking has as much to do with human touch as it does with chemistry. More recently my family have said (as said to most home cooks), that I ‘cook with love’. Although flattered, I was sceptical of using such a non-rational concept as a measurement of quality. I asked to explain what they meant. They simply meant that they can ‘taste’ the love in my cooking…

These observations seem to prove that a recipe cannot be an equation: there is enough intuition, creativity, tradition, personal influence, cheating, adapting and muddling through to ensure that cooking does not become a rational mechanical process. I’m sure even my Dad would have agreed that there is more to cooking than understanding ‘how cooking works’.

 

 

 

How Dad Cooked It

These are great.

Mrs WDC, who has a highly ‘refined’ sweet tooth, said in a sombre tone, ‘These are very good’, so I take that as a thumbs up! If you use canned pumpkin the recipe is actually very easy. I made these with the pulp from my Halloween pumpkin.

To make pumpkin puree

Cut the pumpkin into large slices and scoop off the seeds with a large spoon (for patient cooks, the seeds can be cleaned and roasted and eaten as a snack). Put the pumpkin slices into a large roasting tin and cover tightly with foil. Cook in the oven at 160C, Gas 3 for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or more. The exact time will depend on the type of pumpkin. Just keep an eye on it and test frequently. Remove from the oven when very tender. Cool and then peel the skin off the flesh. Put all the pumpkin in a bowl and blend with a hand blender – or blitz using a processor or blender. Put the pulp into a fine sieve and drain – use a spoon to help force the liquid out.

It becomes clear from this process that a pumpkin is mainly liquid. In the past I have put the pulp in the freezer (as Gordon Ramsey recommends). it helps to separate the liquid during thawing. As an experiment, I reduced all my gathered liquid (from the oven pan and drained pulp) and reduced down to thin syrup – it tastes a little astringent and bitter but very much of pumpkin. I decided to keep this a  fruity ‘demi glace’ which I would re-introduce into the recipe later.

As you can tell preparing something as basic as a pumpkin pulp becomes quite involved… Use the time you have to do this in a way that is convenient. Many recipes say to peel, deseed, chop and boil the pumpkin until tender. The quickest way is to use tinned pumpkin!

Making the muffins

Preheat the oven to 170C, Gas 3.5. Prepare a muffin tray with muffin cases.

Blend together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger and sugar. (Retain a little of the flour to flour the nuts and dates so they don’t sink to the bottom of the muffins.)

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the pumpkin syrup or bourbon (if using), dates, pumpkin, oil and bran cereal and mix well.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet and mix only until combined.

Using a spoon fill each muffin case 3/4 full. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour – check frequently after about 40 minutes.

 

 

You can pick Libby’s Pumpkin Puree up at Waitrose for a priced matched £2 for 425g tin

 

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