Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins

I am a big fan of the first Baked cookbook, the one that spawned such hits as the Sweet and Salty Cake, the Peanut Butter Cookies with Milk Chocolate Chunks, the Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl, and the Millionaire's Shortbread. Whenever I want to create a fabulous dessert that will more than likely get people talking, this book is normally the first place I start to look for recipes. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out they were publishing a second cookbook!

Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented is the next offering in the Baked series, and it is a doozy. Thumbing through it when it first arrived at my house, I was amazed that the book's authors (and the bakery the books are named after's owners) managed to think even more outside the box than last time. There are so many amazing recipes that I am already dying to try. There's the Red Velvet Whoopie Pies, the Monkey Bubble Bread, and the Grasshopper Bars, just to name a select few. But, since I was going to be baking for a pumpkin-loving houseguest, I decided to make the Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins first out of the book.

It seems like it would be an odd pairing, pumpkin with cheddar cheese. However, I can assure you that this works amazingly well. These muffins are more the savory variety than the sweet; there's only a half cup of brown sugar in the whole recipe. The spices are cayenne and black pepper, rather than the more pie-ish cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. The result is a slightly spicy, complex flavor that really surprises and pleases the palate. They're wonderful straight from the oven, but they keep pretty well, too. I'm glad I broke through my doubt about these muffins, because everybody loved them. I'm excited to see what else the Baked book has in store for me!

Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins
from Baked Explorations
makes 12 muffins

Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup solid-pack pumpkin puree
3 Tbsp. sour cream
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne peppers
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups (4 oz.) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds (mine were shelled, roasted, and salted)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray each cup of a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and the sour cream. Add eggs and butter, and whisk until combined.

2. In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and dark brown sugar. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well, and with a large rubber spatula, fold until just combined. Fold in three-quarters of the cheese.

3. Evenly divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining cheese and the pumpkin seeds evenly over each muffin.

4. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let the muffin pan cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before gently removing muffins from pan. These should be served warm, but they can be made ahead of time and reheated in a 200 degree oven.

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