GUYS GUYS GUYS. IT’S ONE WEEK TIL CHRISTMAS. One week until we can stuff our faces with turkey and bacon and mince pies (though it would be totally legitimate to have started this already…), rip open beautifully wrapped presents, throw back ill-advised quantities of champagne and sherry and then cry at the last ever episode of Downton. *Sob* (WARNING: to those who know me personally, I won’t be watching this until Boxing Day so approach me with spoilers on pain of horrific death). Below, in the “One year ago” section, are some appropriately festive recipes, but for now let’s celebrate a wonderful product of the season: the pumpkin. Pumpkins are for life, not just Halloween, so make the most of their time in the shops and do some alternative Christmas baking. I’ve posted a few pumpkin recipes in the past (spiced pumpkin soup with toasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie with maple cream), so there are plenty to chose from if you really get into the pumpkin-y swing of things. The recipe for these delicately spiced and deliciously moist muffins is based onthis recipe from BBC Good Food, with just a few tweaks to quantities, spices and method. It’s very similar to a carrot cake batter, and in fact if you’re really averse to the pumpkin idea then you could do a substitution, though I encourage you to give this recipe a try as is.
While we’re on the subject, let’s clear something up: yes, “Halloween pumpkins” sold in the supermarkets are edible! Although grown specifically for carving, resulting in quite tough skin and possibly a more watery flesh and milder flavour, they are perfectly suitable for human consumption. I’ve used “Halloween pumpkins” in this recipe before and it worked like a dream, but you can get lots of different varieties of smaller pumpkins so if you see them in your local shop then give one a go (I used an Onion squash, also known as a Red Kuri squash, for this batch). You could also use butternut squash if pumpkins aren’t available.
One year ago:
– Mincemeat puff pastry swirls
– Sea salt and brandy truffles
Ingredients (makes 12 muffins)
250g coarsely grated pumpkin flesh (approx. 1 small pumpkin)
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
175ml sunflower oil
175g soft light brown sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground ginger
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
180g full fat cream cheese
85g unsalted butter
100g icing sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/ Gas Mark 4. Halve your pumpkin and scoop out the seeds with a large spoon.
Peel and chop the pumpkin into large chunks – use a sharp knife for this and watch your fingers!
2. Coarsely grate the pumpkin until you have about 250g.
3. Beat together the 3 eggs, vanilla extract and oil and vigorously stir the sugar into the mix.
4. Add the pumpkin, sultanas and the zest of the first orange and stir well.
5. Sift in the spices, flour and bicarbonate of soda and fold through the cake mixture until well combined.
6. Line a muffin tray with 12 cases and spoon the mixture in leaving a few centimetres at the top.
7. Bake for 25 minutes and then check that the muffins are ready by inserting a skewer into the middle which should come out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack – the muffins need to be completely cool before icing.
8. To make the icing, beat together the cream cheese and butter. Add the icing sugar and whisk until light and well combined. You can either add the zest of the other orange at this point or wait till the end to sprinkle it on top. Pop the icing in the fridge to firm up a little.
9. Once the muffins are cooled, ice them with the cream cheese frosting and sprinkle over the orange zest if you kept some aside in the previous step.
The muffins will keep well in the fridge for 2 or 3 days, though they are most delicious eaten the day of baking.