Well, they’re not my grandma’s muffins, but surely they’re somebody’s. It’s probably more likely that recipe writers have figured out that tacking ‘grandma’ on to the name instantly imbues the dish with a sense of old fashioned, home-made nostalgia. And well, they’re right. Somebody’s grandma totally would make these muffins. If it were my grandma, she wouldn’t be caught dead going by ‘grandma’ — she’s grandmother all the way. Or GG…which stand for ‘Gorgeous Grandmother.’ I know, right? A lady with that kind of class wouldn’t settle for anything less.
For my first foray into the magical land of pumpkin, I wanted to do something simple and pure. Pumpkin muffins are the perfect quick and easy snack — the kind kids would race home from school on a crisp October afternoon to snag warm off a plate set out by mom. They’re also a welcome treat after trudging through rain-soaked New York City wearing rain boots that have inexplicable holes in the toes, thus rendering them utterly useless. Cute, with their cartoon umbrellas emblazoned all over, but still useless.
This recipe came from the Weight Watchers website and turned out very well. Pumpkin itself is really quite good for you — it’s chock full of anti-oxidants and all sorts of good things. It’s only when we pour it into flaky crusts and douse it with heavy whipping cream that the health benefits tend to fly right out the window and out into the gray autumn sky. I thought it best to start off with something light and transition into cheesecakes, cupcakes, cookies with brown butter icing, and all manner of decadent pumpkin treats later on.
Upon learning about my pumpkin challenge, several friends have been emailing me recipes and giving me suggestions. One auspicious pal lent me her adorable cast-iron pumpkin muffin tin that produces little cakes shaped like — you guessed it — pumpkins. As I was preparing this batter I debated using regular muffin tins and working my way up to the fancy pumpkin-shaped tin but then I thought, what the hell? Let’s go all out and make the very first recipe TASTE like pumpkin and LOOK like pumpkin. They are pretty cute, I must admit. With a bit of batter left over, I made a few mini muffins as well that are a great one-bite snack…which turns into a whole muffin when you promptly eat five of them.
What makes this recipe ‘healthy’ is the general omission of butter and limited sugar. Canned pumpkin actually makes a great sneaky addition to many desserts year-round. It acts as a flavorless binder in chocolate cake and brownie mixes. Here, the pumpkin mixes with applesauce and egg whites to create the liquid part of the batter. Flour, a little sugar, and all the traditional fall spices mix in as well.
These muffins are tender, soft, and moist. The flavor is subtle, yet bursting with the aromas of autumn you didn’t even know you were missing until that first bite. The nutmeg, cinnamon, and ground cloves don’t bowl you over like a derailed spice train — it’s more a gradual build of warm, spice-y goodness. Okay, a little whipped cream and an extra sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg on top never hurt anyone…