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)

Cinnamon sugar:
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.


Wendy said...

Yum. :) Love that first picture.

Lucy said...

Rosa, the butternut puree sounds like a great pairing with mushrooms.

It's funny that you mention locals avoiding 'foreign' food. I noticed that in Spain too. Pleased you anaged to convince them otherwise.

Rosa said...

Thanks Wendy!

Lucy, it's one of my favorite autumn combinations. Come to think of it, butternut risotto with wild mushrooms might be even better!

City people in France are generally quite open to "foreign" food, but small farmers from the arrière-pays are another story!

Nora B. said...

Hi Rosa, I love this recipe! And I think it goes so well with cinnamon. I am looking for more healthy snacks options so I will take your suggestion about using applesauce.

Just thought I'd mention that you might want to think about submitting this to this month's SHF since the theme is Beta Carotene Harvest:

take care,

Lucy said...

That word should have been 'm-anaged'. Bad typing...

Rosa, I know people dread these things, but I've tagged you for a meme should you be obligation though.

Rosa said...

Thanks Nora, I've submitted the post to SHF! I should think of doing that more often.

Lucy, I'm honored to be tagged. Thanks for thinking of me!

Ann said...

Oh, these look fabulous!

Ann at Redacted Recipes

Rosa said...

Thanks for dropping by, Ann! If you like carrot cake, chances are you'd love these muffins.

Ann said...

Rosa, just what I was thinking! I've got some 6 week bran muffin mix in the refrigerator to use up and then I'm going to try your recipe. :-)

Ann at Redacted Recipes