When Bo and I were in Canada last year, we were there at my favourite time of the year. Fall. When the leaves are spectacular colours and every coffee shop is selling something spiced and packed full of pumpkin (and apple)… I even had a spiced pumpkin latte when I was there. Bo and I both fell in love with spiced pumpkin muffins (and pumpkin pie) and we probably ate one every second day (the other day was full of doughnuts, glorious doughnuts). We would pick up a bag of them from Tim Hortons on the subway ride back to my grandfathers from down town, and when we got home we would share them with him, all of us devouring the sweetly spiced taste of a Canadian autumn.
Now that it’s Autumn here I’m reminded every day of my Canadian heritage. The sweet smell of apples baking, the chewy pecans covered in maple syrup, spiced apple ciders, cinnamon and clove… it all reminds me of winters and autumns spent as a child rugged up in snow suits, surrounded by my Canadian family, on the outskirts of Toronto. I’m reminded every day of my grandmother, who is no longer with us. I’m reminded of the last time I spoke to my grandmother, I was heavily pregnant and she was in hospital. We were far apart in different corners of the world, in parallel corners of life… one life just beginning, another coming to a close. It was the first time in my life that I really had some common ground with my grandmother as an adult, as a woman. We talked about pregnancy woes and she empathised with my aches and pains, after all, she had grown and raised eight children of her own. She was gone before Bo entered the world. Some days Bo wears a little jumper that my grandmother knitted for me when I was a little girl, she has had one for every season of her life so far, and I’m glad there are still a few in a box waiting for her to grow into them, little jumpers with my own name stitched inside, and a little cloth label that says ‘made with love by grandma.’
These muffins remind me of part of my heritage, they remind me of my grandmothers kitchen, they remind me of late afternoons with my grandfather, they remind me of family… and with that in mind, I’m really happy I get to share them with you! I only wish Canada was just a little bit closer, so I could deliver a dozen of these to my grandfather in person.
I know he would like them, very much.
Big thanks to Donal Skehan, without his recipe I would have never got the spice mix just right…
PERFECT SPICED PUMPKIN MUFFINS
2 cups organic spelt
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup rapadura sugar
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
2 large free range eggs
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp clove
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp milk (coconut milk if you’re dairy free)
crushed pecans or pepitas
Preheat your oven to 180C and slice your butternut pumpkin directly in half length wise (leave the seeds and the skin and everything. Pop on a baking tray and slide into a nice hot oven for about 45minutes to an hour. It’s worth the time, if you’ve got it, to make the best pumpkin puree. If I know I’m using pumpkin I just bake the pumpkin first thing in the morning, I usually bake both halves at the same time and use one for soup.
Once your pumpkin is cooked, scoop out the seeds and put to the side for another time (I eat my seeds so they never get wasted in our house). Using a spoon scoop out all of the soft, creamy pumpkin and put into a bowl with a good splash of milk (coconut works really well too if you’re dairy free). Using a whisk, stir until nice and smooth. Half a butternut pumpkin with milk should make about 2 cups of perfect, simple, delicious puree.
In a large bowl add the eggs, oil and puree and whisk well until combined.
In a separate bowl combine all of the dry ingredients; flour, baking powder, spices and sugar and whisk well to aerate. Add the wet to the dry and mix until just combined. Spoon the mixture into a lined muffin pan (this mixture should make a dozen).
Bake the muffins in a preheated oven (180C) for about 20 minutes or until the tops are golden coloured and bounce back when you press down on them.
Cool on a wire rack (go on, just eat one or two warm…)
While waiting for the muffins to cool you can mix up your icing, just whisk all ingredients in a bowl until smooth and a little bit runny (shouldn’t be too thick, if you need to add a tsp more milk). When the muffins are nice and cool, drizzle the icing over the top and sprinkle on the crushed nuts.
Eat them. Enjoy them. You can freeze them… if there is any left. There are never any left in our house. This batch of 12 were gone in about six hours. They really are THAT good.
Also… you know you’ve done a bloody good job in the kitchen, when you hand your feral toddler a muffin, and she eats it, coming up for air after every bite to say “mmmmm… good cookin’ mama… vewy good cookin,” and then graces you with the following face (after grabbing her SECOND muffin)…