One sure sign that autumn has arrived in Europe is the welcoming array of pumpkins and squashes at the farmers’ market. That and the fact that ballet flats are not the best choice of shoes anymore, now that the temperatures have taken a sudden dip.
My favourite way to celebrate the onset of autumn is to make a big batch of Roast Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Soup, with either a tray of savoury scones or a Rustic Bacon & Cheddar Bread to go alongside. And as I am always looking for ways to sneak vegetables into our children’s diet, autumn is the perfect time to start adding pumpkin to cakes and bakes. Whilst I wouldn’t quite concede that a slice of pumpkin pie or carrot cake counts as part of their daily vegetable intake, it is certainly a fun way of making children understand that vegetables can be tasty, whether served sweet or savoury.
Growing up in Australia, pumpkin scones were a familiar tea-time treat. But the American classics, such as pumpkin pie, pumpkin mousse and even the Pumpkin Spice Latté from Starbucks, were foreign concepts to me until several years ago when we moved to Chicago. Once autumn rolled around and the shops started to prepare for Halloween, my husband and I couldn’t wait to sample all of the pumpkin delights … and pumpkin donuts were high on that list!
After loading my market bag with a few too many pumpkins the other day, I decided to bake a treat for the children for their afternoon tea. These pumpkin spice muffins are deliciously light and sweet, and the crunchy pecan and chocolate topping provides a nice contrast to the fluffy cake underneath. Nothing beats the feeling of seeing your children all excited about something you’ve made, and especially when they ask for seconds.
- 80 g unsalted butter, softened
- 100 g caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 350 g pumpkin purée
- 240 g plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- 125 ml milk
- 100 g pecans, roughly chopped
- 100 g dark chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cases.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla extract and eggs, and beat until well incorporated.
- Mix through the pumpkin purée.
- Gently fold in the flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon and salt.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tins.
- Mix together the chopped pecans and chocolate. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over each muffin case.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.
- Leave the muffins to cool in the tray for about 5 minutes before removing them from the tray.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
To make your own pumpkin purée, peel and remove the seeds from about 500 g of pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin into large pieces of roughly equal size. You can either boil or steam or the pumpkin. To boil, bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the pumpkin and cook for about 30 minutes until the pumpkin is tender. To steam, bring a large pot of water to the boil, place the pumpkin in the steamer basket and steam for about 50-60 minutes until the pumpkin is tender. Place the cooked pumpkin into the bowl of a large food processor and blitz until you have a fine purée. Leave the purée to cool completely before using in this recipe.
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