Sunday, November 11, 2007
Butternut squash muffins
After the sugary excesses of my trip to England I wanted something sweet but not too sweet, healthy but not too healthy. The answer was these butternut squash muffins, which I came across on the Channel 4 website while looking at Jamie Oliver recipes to compensate for British television withdrawal.
Butternut rivals potimarron as my favorite squash thanks to its sweet yet delicate taste and non-stringy texture. Its smooth surface and elongated shape make it one of the easiest squash to peel, winning it many bonus points in my book. Often I purée it with butter until smooth and top it with sautéed wild mushrooms, but Jamie's recipe looked like the perfect breakfast or after-school treat.
This morning I tested these muffins on the Cours Saleya market vendors, who are often suspicious of anything "foreign" (ie. not originating from within a 15-mile radius around Nice). They accepted them quite readily despite the presence of cinnamon, a spice that rarely makes an appearance in French cakes. "It's like pain d'épice," they said, nodding approvingly and licking their fingers.
I replaced the olive oil in Jamie's recipe with deep yellow sunflower oil from Russia that I bought at the Armenian grocery store. Its taste turned out to be a bit strong, and next time I might try a mild-tasting olive oil. I would also be tempted to replace half the oil with applesauce, a good way to reduce the fat in just about any muffin recipe. Instead of Jamie's soft sour cream icing I topped the muffins with a light sprinkling of cinnamon sugar, which created a crunchy little crust that contrasted nicely with the tender orange-gold crumb.
I'll be submitting this post to November's Sugar High Friday, which in honor of American Thanksgiving is focusing on the beta-carotene harvest. It's hosted by talented fellow Canadian Leslie.
Butternut squash muffins
Makes 18 muffins
Adapted from a Jamie at Home recipe
400 g butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks (15 oz) (Jamie Oliver uses unpeeled squash, but I didn't notice that until now)
350 g light soft brown sugar (13 oz)
4 large free-range or organic eggs
A pinch of sea salt
300 g plain flour, unsifted (11 oz)
2 heaped tsp baking powder
A handful of walnuts
1 tsp ground cinnamon
175 ml sunflower or olive oil (2/3 cup)
2 tbsp light brown cane sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
For the cinnamon sugar, combine the two ingredients in a small bowl.
Place the chopped squash in the bowl of a food processor (I used my Thermomix) and chop finely. Add all the other ingredients and pulse until a smooth batter forms, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Be careful not to overmix. Pour or spoon the batter into greased muffin tins and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Bake at 180 C (375 F) until well risen and cooked through.