Sorry for the lack of posting, everyone. I’m moving to DC in a few days and have been a little preoccupied with packing, uprooting my life, etc. So I don’t totally slack off, I’m recycling a recipe from when I was in South Africa earlier this year.
If there was a muffin fan club, Maya, my almost-two-year-old niece, would be the president. She loves muffins so much that we call her Maya Muffinhead, and one of her first words was muffin (though it actually sounds more like ‘mapu,’ the intent is clear). As the aunt, my role is to spoil her rotten. And since she lives in South Africa and I only get the opportunity to see her a few times a year, I have to condense all of my spoiling into very short but intense sessions. This situation lead directly to me making these muffins; who else but an adoring aunt would spend 3 hours making muffins for a toddler? Just so you don’t run screaming from this recipe, let me clarify that the inordinate amount of time was partly due to my taking periodic hide-and-seek breaks, and partly due to other cooking projects I had going on at the same time. That said, this recipe does require a bit more commitment than most other muffin recipes, but it’s worth it. Most muffins have an appalling amount of fat and sugar, neither of which are particularly healthy ways to start your day (or to feed a toddler). Think of it this way: if you’re making these for yourself, you could spend an extra half hour in the kitchen on this recipe and still eat dessert later. Or you could make/buy an unhealthy version and essentially have your dessert for breakfast. No thanks, pass the ice cream, please.
The original recipe called for some spices that my niece probably wouldn’t be thrilled by, so I swapped them for some more kid-friendly flavors. I also substituted molasses (Maya’s “honey”) for some of the sugar and added some pepitas and cinnamon on the top. Other than that, credit for the overall deliciousness goes to Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks and Super Natural Cooking fame.Butternut & Apple Juice Muffins adapted from 101cookbooks makes about 12 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into small cubes (about 3 cups) 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt 2 cinnamon sticks 6 cloves 4 cups freshly pressed apple juice (or apple cider) ½ cup sugar ¼ cup molasses 2 large egg yolks 1/2 cup homemade applesauce (or use a sugar-free, all natural brand) 1/4 cup grapeseed oil 4 large egg whites 2 cups spelt flour 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon fine sea salt ¼ cup pepitas and ground cinnamon (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.
2. Toss the squash with the coarse sea salt and spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the squash is cooked through and tender.
3. While the squash is baking away, combine the cinnamon sticks and cloves and the apple juice in a saucepan. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, uncovered, or until it’s reduced to about 1/4 cup. Discard the whole spices and set reduction aside.
4. Transfer the squash and reduced juice to a food processor and blend.
5. If you’re making your applesauce, do so now. I used about 2 medium-sized apples and a pinch of cinnamon and processed in a mini blender.
6. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, molasses and egg yolks on high speed for about 3 minutes with a hand blender, or until light and fluffy. Add in the applesauce, oil, and squash puree just until blended.
7. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until they are quite foamy but not yet peaky.
8. In another bowl (no, I’m not kidding), mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and the fine sea salt with a whisk. Fold into the batter. Stir in the egg whites until blended (don’t overmix).
9. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each one about ¾ of the way full. Top off with the pepitas and a dash of ground cinnamon. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.