Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Easy Pumpkin Rye Muffins

I made these delicious muffins for the tailgating party I went to on Saturday. There's something about fall that makes us crave pumpkin. It's sweet, but not cloying and tastes wonderful in baked goods. I actually think pie is the least of the possible applications for pumpkin in your kitchen. Muffins, quick breads and soups are far superior to plain old pie as a pumpkin treat. Most recipes add so much sugar that it drowns the natural, nuanced sweetness of the pumpkin. It's unnecessary.

Pumpkin rye muffins I adapted this recipe from my old reliable baking cookbook: The Joy of Cooking, sixth edition (1975). This cookbook was passed to me from my mother after I was married and I started getting interested in cooking again. She had the newer edition and didn't need this one cluttering up her kitchen anymore. It's a really solid cookbook, the best I've ever owned and I turn to it almost every time I bake.

There's a couple things I find superior about it. First, the recipes have less sugar than modern recipes. Seriously, it's amazing how much our palates have changed. But before you think these are "healthier" recipes, the second big difference is the amount of butter. There's considerably more.

But the final big change is the serving sizes. "Joy's" chocolate chip cookie recipe is supposed to make 2 dozen cookies. I feel lucky if I squeeze more than a dozen out of that bowl. Why? Because my idea of what the proper size for a cookie is is vastly different than Irma Rombauer's. I make them too big.

Anyways, this recipe came from that book, with a couple changes. The first was substituting a portion of the white flour for rye. Since my husband was diagnosed as a Type II diabetic, I've both cut down on the amount of baking I do and started experimenting with lower glycemic flours. I've been having good results with rye slipped into cookies and hearty quick breads recently, so hopefully there will be posts with more rye flour recipes. The rye is unnoticeable, except as an extra layer of heartiness to the muffin. The second big change was that I didn't think there was quite enough pumpkin in the recipe as is. So I simply replaced the liquids in this with more pumpkin, bringing it up to a full 15 ounces, or one can's worth. It makes the recipe really burst with pumpkin flavor and simplifies the directions by giving one less thing to measure. I further tweaked things by cutting the sugar back, because it was just too sweet and swapped half the white sugar for brown. The flavorless shortening is replaced by an equal amount of butter.

The result is a complex, hearty pumpkin muffin for grownups. Not too sweet and lightly spiced, it cries out for a pat of butter when it's warm from then oven, but stands on it's own as a dessert or breakfast treat. It's a pumpkin muffin that actually tastes like pumpkin. Next time I make this, I'll probably add some mix ins like dark chocolate chips or chopped pecans. Someone who is less picky about cooked fruit might like raisins.

Easy Pumpkin Rye Bread

1 1/4 cups white flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 brown sugar (I prefer the dark kind, but light brown is okay, I guess)
1/2 (one stick) cup of butter, softened
2 eggs
15 oz. (1 can) of plain pumpkin puree

Sift together flours, spices and reactants. Beat until light and fluffy the butter and sugar (this is when my stand mixer gets a work out).  Add the eggs one at a time, pausing the scrape down and ensure they are mixed in well. Add the can of pumpkin, scrape down and ensure everything is beaten together. Remove bowl from mixer and add 1/3 of flour mixture. Fold in gently, then repeat until flour is just barely mixed in. Over mixing will result in tunneling, which still tastes good, but looks silly. Portion out with an ice cream scoop into lined muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, or about 12-15 minutes. Or, if you want pumpkin bread, pour into greased loaf pan and bake for about 50-60 minutes.

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