Monday, November 16, 2015

Pumpkin Molasses Muffins

How many pumpkin muffin recipes does one need? As many as one can cram into one’s mouth recipe file. That’s the justification I’m going to use for posting another pumpkin muffin recipe, despite having published this one and this one and this pumpkin bread (which needs some updating), and these cupcakes in the past. Besides, muffins are the fastest, easiest way to enjoy sweet pumpkin-y goodness (with the possible exception of this dip) when the season calls for it. Besides, the bakers in the institutional kitchen where I work have been churning out pumpkin muffins and loaves from a really nice commercial mix lately, and I can’t get them out of my head.

So, when I grabbed The Essential Baker by Carole Bloom off the shelf at the library and one of the first pages I flipped to at random held a delicious-looking pumpkin muffin recipe, I took the cue to get baking. What attracted me to this recipe was the addition of molasses and the use of heavy cream in the liquid component. I know that other times I’ve said that I should cut out some of the butter in my favorite muffin recipes to see how they would go, so taking an interest in this heavy cream (in addition to lots of butter) might seem a contradiction, and perhaps it is. All I can say is that it was different from my other muffin recipe experiences, and I figured it had to be delicious. Also, I had some heavy cream in my refrigerator and no other plans to use it.

The heavy cream did help make moist muffins with an almost creamy crumb, but it’s the contribution to the flavor by the molasses that I really loved. The pumpkin flavor is subtle, but the molasses blends well with it and really enhances the pumpkin pie spices. (I used my usual pumpkin spice mix, based on the mixture of spices in Grandmama’s Pumpkin Pie.)  I added chopped pecans to my muffins, and I loved their sweet, unique flavor here, but you could also add raisins or dates, or a different nut if you prefer (or leave out all those add-ins entirely).

Just a word, if I may, on The Essential Baker. I don’t own a copy of this book, and I’ve only recently spent a bit of time with the copy from my local library. This book is truly impressive in its detail, and if you’re interested in baking more than you ever have before, it really looks like this large collection of recipes would be a great companion. I’ve bookmarked way too many pages already, so I better get baking before overdue fees kick in!

Pumpkin Molasses Muffins
Adapted from The Essential Baker by Carole Bloom

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup dark brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine salt
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
¼ cup heavy cream
2 eggs
3 tablespoons molasses
¾ cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray or line it with paper liners. Melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Whisk together to combine well. Set aside.

3. In a medium-size bowl, combine the heavy cream and eggs and whisk together. Slowly whisk in the melted butter. Whisk in the molasses, pumpkin and vanilla and continue whisking until the mixture is very smooth.

4. Pour the cream mixture into the flour mixture and stir until most of the dry ingredients have been moistened. Stir in the pecans.

5. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, evenly distributing it between all 12 cups. Bake at 400 F for 20-25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out with only a few crumbs attached. Cool in the pan on a wire rack 5 minutes.

6. Remove the muffins from the pan and cool completely (or until just cool enough to eat!) Leftovers can be wrapped well and frozen.

Makes 12 muffins.

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