As I've learned over the past month, you can make a pumpkin version of just about anything, including beer, whoopie pies, and chili. But what really compares to a perfect pumpkin muffin? Especially one that is warm and spicy and slathered with cream cheese?
There are plenty of pumpkin muffin mixes on the market, as well as a host of mixes for pumpkin quick breads that can easily be baked in a muffin pan. But most of them leave me disappointed. Too often, they are one-dimensional in flavor—all pumpkin puree with no substance to back it up. I wanted a more satisfying muffin, one vaguely reminiscent of bran versions, with the nutty taste of whole-wheat and the complex sweetness of molasses.
A quick scan of ingredient labels lead me, not surprisingly, to King Arthur Flour's Pumpkin Spice Muffin Mix ($6.25). King Arthur has been making pure, all-natural flours for more than 200 years, and their ever-expanding line of baking mixes—from chocolate doughnuts to semolina pizza crusts—has been consistently excellent.
The Pumpkin Spice Muffin Mix listed wheat and barley flours, brown sugar, and molasses as the main components. Armed with 1/3 cup of vegetable oil, 3 eggs, 1 cup of water, and a wooden spoon, I set out to bake a batch.
The batter came together so quickly that I was still waiting for the oven to preheat when it was ready. On a whim, I decided to toss in some leftover walnuts and golden raisins I had in the pantry for a little added crunch and sweetness. The instructions on the box said that the mix yielded 12 muffins, but I found that I had enough batter for 16—even after filling the cups more than the standard 2/3 full. Not that I'm complaining. Extra muffins are never really a problem.
In the end, the Pumpkin Spice Muffins came out just as I had hoped: hearty and toothsome, with thick crumbs and pillowy tops. Instead of being cloying or overbearing, the pumpkin taste was subtle. It enhanced the dominant flavors of molasses, cinnamon, and brown sugar.
I would highly recommend these muffins for a fall brunch buffet, or as a soothing afternoon snack—paired with a mug of cocoa made from this recipe for homemade Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate Mix. Click here for the recipe »
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