Round two of "Using up everything your pumpkin has to offer" is for all of you out there with a sweet tooth. I am normally more of a savoury person, but I had a really hard time keeping my fingers away from that glorious pumpkin seed brittle! Crunchy, nutty and caramelly... what's not to like?
In the course of making these muffins, I began to seriously doubt whether publishing recipes for an international audience is a good idea... you see, I have lived in a lot of different countries and continents over the years and of course I have been aware of the fact that flour is not flour and some things are more universally available than others. In six years of food blogging and therefore cooking more consciously, I have also learnt that there are so many variables involved (different oven strengths, different equipment used - my Thermomix is much stronger than your average food processor, a cast-iron pan behaves completely different from a cheap non-stick, just to give you two examples), even the climate makes such a difference - massively affecting rising times or how to store what you've made... and while I make every attempt to boil things down to suit the most average of kitchens and most universal of environments, I am acutely aware that people following my recipes to the T will find their creations differ from what they see on my blog. And it's not because I use hairspray or a blow-torch to pimp up my food ;-)
In this particular instance, I learnt that although pumpkins may look pretty darn similar all around the world, the flesh you scoop out couldn't show more variations if it tried... in the UK, the meat I encountered was pretty moist and juicy, staining everything no end, this year's pumpkin was a stringy and very dry affair - I was pulling out strands and strands of flesh and hardly had to scoop or cut at all. So what, you may say... well, it sure was easier to hollow out the beast this time, but of course, a drier meat results in drier muffins, so the recipe needed adapting.
All of us have learnt over the years that every country has different kinds of cream available (half and half, so extensively used in the US, is unobtainable in Europe, there is not ONE kind of cream, even if sold under the same name, milk does not equal milk, the fat content will vary (and yes, that DOES make a difference when you're trying to do certain things like achieve a nice foam), curd cheese is not exactly like ricotta and if you go to Austria, where we use curd aka Topfen or Quark a lot, we have various different kinds, differing in fat content... but that even products of the same BRAND could show such vast variations was a new lesson I learnt here. I always thought when someone said philly, they meant the philly I could buy in each and every shop in the country, no matter whether I bought it at the service station or the gourmet supermarket. Here, you have a number of products of philly, a big fat block which is very hard and dry, a spreadable version (60% fat) which is still drier and harder than the regular philly you get at home and in most European countries... so you will understand that even I, as an experienced cook, do struggle with recipes I have made a hundred times now, just because the parameters are not the same anymore.
So if you've ever struggled with a recipe (mine or someone else's) and have cursed its author, cut them some slack - it might just be due to the fact that the products you use are different from theirs. Use every recipe with caution, question it, apply your common sense and we'll all live happily ever after. And don't write hate emails, please, I'll be upset for a while, then delete it and think no more of it, but you might end up with a stomach ulcer - not worth it, right?
Anyway, back to those muffins I am trying to sell here: I'd like to describe them as moist or crumbly as they case may be, but this will really depend on what kind of pumpkin you can get - my pumpkin was so dry I decided to pre-bake it with some maple syrup to release the juices. Taste-wise, I went easy on the sugar, but added maple syrup for a fuller flavour, I toasted the pumpkin seeds to make them taste even nuttier and the icing is a no-sugar affair, cream cheese and yoghurt to cut through the sweetness and add moisture. And the addictive pumpkin brittle, well, it's not compulsory, but it does add another component of contrasting textures... but if you haven't been as self-controlled as I have and you've nibbled it all up before the muffins had cooled down, its not the end of the world. Or you might decide to just make another batch...
(makes 10 muffins, 12 cupcakes)
For the pumpkin brittle:
50 g dark green pumpkin seeds
35 g white sugar
For the muffins:
300 g pumpkin meat
100 ml maple syrup
100 g butter (room temperature)
50 g toasted pumpkin seeds (procedure as for brittle)
150 g cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
For the topping:
100 g cream cheese
100 g Greek yoghurt
Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan, when they are turning fragrant and are starting to pop and brown, turn out on a silicone baking mat. Arrange in a single layer, very close together.
Sprinkle the sugar into the warm pan, in an even layer, and leave until starting to turn into a sticky liquid. Shake the pan a little to evenly distribute and stop the sigar from burning, until the sugar has dissolved and has turned a medium brown.
Take off the heat, pour evenly over the pumpkin seeds. Spread around using a dough cutter or spatula to distribute and cool the caramel down. It'll clump up a bit and that's fine. Leave to cool completely and store in an air-tight container until ready to use.
For the muffins, lay the pumpkin meat out on a lined baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with 50 ml of the maple syrup and bake in the pre-heated oven at 200C for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cream the butter with 100 g golden caster sugar, add the remaining maple syrup. Roughly chop the toasted pumpkin seeds, add to the mixture with the flour and baking powder. Fold in the baked pumpkin and fill into lined muffin moulds, about 3/4 up.
Bake in the pre-heated oven (160C fan) for 30 minutes. Leave to cool completely before mixing the yoghurt and cream cheese, topping the muffins with a tbsp full each and sprinkling with the chopped brittle.