Life is Sweet: High Country baking can be a joy
Living in Summit County is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as good as they do at sea level. This semi-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the High Country successful. Each recipe has been tested numerous times in my home kitchen in Frisco and, whenever necessary, altered until it works. I love Thanksgiving…a time when friends and family gather together to reflect on the many things for which they are grateful, and to EAT! That’s my kind of holiday! The challenge, of course, is to prepare a menu that pleases everyone. My family always wants the traditional Thanksgiving tastes, but not in the traditional ways. For example, they dislike pumpkin pie, but want pumpkin. That’s why these muffins found their way onto our table and their sweet, tender, cake-like texture and mildly-pumpkin taste have kept them there. It also helps that they can be made well in advance and frozen until needed and that they are equally as good served for breakfast. I adapted this recipe from one I found years ago in Bonnie Stern’s Cuisinart Cookbook.Pumpkin-Pecan MuffinsMakes about 20 regular muffins or about 3 dozen mini-muffins, (baked in mini-muffin tins with 2 ounce cups)Ingredients:
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons flour1 teaspoon baking powder1 teaspoon cinnamon1 teaspoon saltPinch of ground nutmeg1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature for traditional method; cold for food processor method1 cup minus 2 tablespoons sugar2 eggs1 cup canned pumpkin1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk1 cup chopped pecans
Topping:3 tablespoons melted butter2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamonPreheat oven to 415 degrees.Grease and flour the muffin tins or spray generously with Baker’s Joy. (I swear by this stuff when baking at altitude.) Spray it, wipe the sprayed cup with a paper towel so the whole cup is generously covered and the white foam of the spray disappears.You can mix the batter either of two ways:Traditional method: Step 1: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and pinch of ground nutmeg.Step 2: In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar, preferably with a mixer. Scrape down the sides of the bowl at least twice. You want this to get fluffy, light and almost white in color and you want all of the butter incorporated.
Step 3: Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.Step 4: Add the milk and the pumpkin and mix until incorporated.Step 5: Add the dry ingredients and then the nuts, mixing, either by hand or on low, just until the batter is smooth. Be gentle and don’t overmix.Food Processor Method:This requires a processor with at least a 7 cup capacityStep 1: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and a pinch of ground nutmeg.Step 2: Put butter and sugar in the work bowl of processor with metal blade. Pulse until butter is in little bits. Then, process continually until the batter is smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to incorporate all the ingredients.Step 3: Add the eggs, one at a time, processing until smooth.Step 4: Add the pumpkin and the milk and process until smooth again. Be sure and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.Step 5:Add the dry ingredients and the nuts and blend just combine the ingredients. Be careful not to overprocess.
For both methods:Step 6: Fill muffin tins just over half full; not more than 2/3 full. Everything rises higher at our altitude and you don’t want these to overflow the pan. Step 7: Bake for about 14-16 minutes for mini muffins in 2 ounce cups, about 20-25 for regular muffins. The time will vary with the pan you use and your oven, so bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the muffins are pulling away from sides of pan cups.Step 8: Cool on a wire rack for about 3- 5 minutes, and then remove from the pans. Top the muffins while they are warm: Brush them with melted butter and sprinkle with the mixture of sugar and cinnamon. My family likes these served at room temperature, but they are good warm as well. Happy Thanksgiving.Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. If your group or business would like to sample and review a baked good that will be featured in this column, please contact Vera Dawson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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