Every so often, I find a miniature orange pumpkin in Bombay. In America I used to buy these pumpkins only as fall decoration, but here, after I stop gazing at them adoringly, I boil them for puree. India is not the land of tinned pumpkin, so each baby pumpkin must be first treasured, then plundered. I freeze the puree until inspiration- or craving- strikes, like this morning, when I rolled out of bed thinking there would be nothing better than a pumpkin muffin for breakfast.
Out came the box of frozen puree and off the shelf, my Dorie Greenspan cookbook. She writes, in Baking, From My Home to Yours, “I’ve got a penchant for pumpkin.” So do I, Dorie. So do I. From Dorie’s recipe, I omitted the raisins as I’m not fond of discovering them in pastries, omitted the sunflower seeds she uses for topping, lessened the sugar, and ground my walnuts instead of chopping them, because while I like the nutty flavor, I don’t like interrupting the soft texture of muffins for knobbly pieces of walnut.
These lightly spiced pumpkin muffins remind me of a fresh fall day, of crunching through a pile of leaves to reach the bright warmth in a patch of sunlight. With Bombay on the precipice of the sauna it calls summer, I can, bite by bite, transport myself to another season on another continent.
adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
pinch of all spice powder
1 stick (8 tbsp;, 4 oz., 113 grams) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup minus 2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup minus 1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup ground walnuts or pecans
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray 12 molds in a regular size muffin tin, or fit the mold with muffin liners, or use a silicone muffin pan or muffin holders (I used the latter) which don’t need greasing.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
3. With a hand mixer in a large bowl (or with a stand mixer, should you be lucky enough to have one), beat the butter at medium speed until soft. Add both the sugars and continue to beat until light and smooth. One by one add the eggs, beating for a minute are the eggs are incorporated, then add the vanilla. Lower the mixer speed and mix in the pumpkin and buttermilk. With the mixer at low speed, add the dry ingredients in a steady steam, mixing only until they disappear. To avoid overmixing, you can stop the machine early and stir any remaining dry ingredients into the batter using a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
4. Bake for about 25 minutes (mine took only 20) or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the muffins to a rack and cool for 5 minutes, then carefully remove each one from its mold and finish cooling.