Monday, 2 January 2012

SmartCooks Roars Over Tigress Pumpkin Corn Muffins

January 2012

SmartCooks here. 

Pumpkin corn muffins -- yummy.  What an excellent way to start the New Year ... corn meal, fresh pumpkin, a few interesting spices (like aleppo pepper), yogurt and eggs... all baked together in a muffin pan and they smell divine. 

I make these muffins by the dozens and keep them in the freezer.  Each morning, while coffee is brewing, I pop two into the microwave for a minute and a half, cut them in half, add some no-sugar preserves or fresh fruit and cheese and, voila, a healthy, filling breakfast.

I found the pumpkin corn muffins recipe on one of the more unusual food blogging sites.  The blogger calls herself the 'Tigress' and has been managing two webblogs for years i.e.,
-- Tigress in a PIckle (or as she puts it, "pursuing the proliferation of pickles and other savory pottages", (although I think she meant to spell it 'potages').  No matter. 
-- Tigress in a Jam  or "a preservationist's jam on the sweeter things in life and alchemy". 

Both websites have the most unusual, but delicious, recipes on them (e.g., Pickled spring turnips, Kohlrabi garlic scapes kimchi Shizzles with picklz: Shallot pie).  Her writing is quite different, making extensive use of lower case, cat/tiger terminology (e.g., pawnotes) and stream of consciousness writing.     

Tigress calls herself a locavore and spends half a year in a little white farmhouse with a big garden (small portion pictured) in the southern Berkshires of Massachusetts, where she gardens, plants, cans, ferments, pickles, preserves, photographs, and blogs about 'pilgrim' style living off the land.  The other half of the year is in Manhattan as an electronic music events producer. 

In addition to blogging, she Twitter posts pictures of her Burmese cats (mahfouz & thor) as well as artistic shots of interesting Scandinavian architecture and Japanese fashion, which are passions of hers.  Her photography is downright beautiful, although most of those pictures I get via Twitter feed on my ipad.     

Both websites are worth browing and trying the recipes. I tend to experiment with her recipes as she is a bit 'dash of this or that' type cook.  But for today... pumpkin corn muffins.  If you don't have aleppo pepper, can also substitute chipotle powder or Spanish smoked paprika. I've even mixed the paprika and the aleppo pepper. The spices add a subtle taste and do not overwhelm, even if you goof (like I did one time!) and add in a full tsp or more of both spices. 

In both cases, Tigress suggests grinding your own cinammon from a cinnamon stick.  So I did this.  It is NOT easy at all but worth it for the fresh cinnamon taste.  An alternative would be to order some quality cinnamon from the Spice Hunters in Montreal... their cinnamon sticks from Sri Lanka are softer and easier to grate and MUCH more fragrant. 

Squash purée can also be substituted for pumpkin.  There are many ways to make a squash puree (roasted at 400 in the oven or microwaved for 10-15 minutes until it is easy to stick a fork through the skin.  Let cool, then mash the squash and voila, squash puree.  Leftover squash can be easily frozen until the next batch of muffins is needed.  Or, easy-peasy, I once had the leftovers of a LARGE container of butternut squash soup and used it for a couple of batches of muffins.  All delicious. 

Pumpkin Corn Muffins (12 muffins)
 1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal (stoneground) 
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4-1 tsp aleppo pepper (or chipotle powder, or smoked spanish paprika)
3/4 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, cooled
1 packed cup pumpkin/winter squash purée
1/2 cup maple, light brown, or raw sugar
1/2 cup yogurt
2 large eggs


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and grease muffin tins. (I used Pam). 

In a large bowl mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pepper.

In a separate bowl whisk together cooled butter, pumpkin, sugar, yogurt, and eggs. add to dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do not overstir.

Place on middle rack of oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until nothing sticks to a toothpick when inserted in the center. Gently release muffins and cool on rack.

Muffins freeze well.

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