Thursday, November 11, 2010

Eat: Pumpkin Muffins, outside the box

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but ever since I first put Big E into daycare over six years ago, I have seen it more as the most guilt-inducing. 

It is the meal that starts the day and that I, as someone whose workday is in full swing at 7:30 a.m., have had to ask others to feed to my children.  Eating lunch away from home?  That's standard.  We all do that.  But what kind of mother can't feed her child breakfast?  A mother like me, the kind who feels inordinately guilty about it, who thinks that every short stack her kids are deprived of will someday equal an hour on the therapist's couch.

I assuaged my guilt during my extra-large maternity leave after Little E was born.  There was fruit and pancakes and whole-wheat waffles shaped like Mickey Mouse --and that was just on the weekdays.  When  I returned to work I tried to keep this up, to an extent, with homemade muffins that the girls could eat at daycare, but I quickly found that the strife caused by trying to whip up breakfast pastries from scratch acted in opposition to the calm. happy home these muffins were supposed to represent. 

I fell to Pillsbury's lure and began buying a box of pumpkin muffin mix and a bag of Hershey's mini-morsels every week to satisfy Big E's love of pumpkin and chocolate.  But a few weeks ago, there was a pre-Halloween run on pumpkin muffin mix and it occurred to me that now that I'm working part-time I could get back in the breakfast game --at least part way.

I found this pumpkin muffin recipe from the November 2006 issue of Gourmet Magazine on a blog named, appropriately enough, Muffin Top and followed it with the addition of the beloved mini-morsels.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin

1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp pumpkin-pie spice (a combo of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice)
1 1/4 cups plus 1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

6 ounces of mini chocolate chips (my addition)

Equipment: 12 foil or paper muffin liners; a muffin pan with 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350F. Put liners in muffin cups.

Whisk together flour and baking powder in a small bowl.

Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin-pie spice, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.

Gently stir in chocolate chips.

Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.

Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about 3/4 full), then spinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

Not only were these almost as easy to make as the mix muffins, they had a delicious cinnamony-sweet topping.  The only problem: My grocery store considers canned pumpkin a seasonal item, but the reduction in breakfast-related guilt makes it worth stocking up.

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