Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Best Pumpkin Muffins Ever

I think that everyone who is a home baker or cook should have one recipe that is HER recipe. Not necessarily original, but rock solid and very, very tasty. This is MY recipe under those criteria.

I've been making these muffins for ten years, and they are definitely the most universally loved of anything I bake. You would not be far off to say that this recipe is the basis of my reputation and confidence as a baker. Even people who don't necessarily like pumpkin love them too.

I made these when I lived in Colorado Springs, so I've included high-altitude adjustments in the recipe at the end.

Once I realized (last year) that these are my go-to recipe, I celebrated by getting a really nice pumpkin muffin pan from Nordic Ware. Nordic Ware is definitely the way to go for a shaped pan if you plan to use it a lot. And though I am not wealthy, I really try to use the best tools I can.

This batch of muffins is for the Elders of my church, one of whom is being transferred tomorrow. These young men are far from home, and we really appreciate the work they do. Et voilĂ !

This is a very simple and quick recipe. You don't need a mixer, and in fact you can do almost the whole thing with a whisk. I've adapted the recipe from The Best Quick Recipe by America's Test Kitchen (ATK). In case you're wondering about the prevalence of ATK in this blog, it's because I basically taught myself to cook from their cookbooks, though I like to think I've flown the nest.

I started by weighing 8 3/4 ounces of all-purpose flour and adding 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. I usually add 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, but I am out. I then whisked the dry ingredients.

In a separate, smaller bowl I weighed 7 ounces, or 1 cup, of dark brown sugar. I weigh brown sugar to avoid the fuss of packing it in the measuring cup.

I added one egg and whisked these together. Even though my brown sugar is fresh today, I've made this recipe with sugar dried to the point that some lumps would not mix out. Amazingly, these little crunchy nuggets of brown sugar soften in the oven and are very nice in the finished muffin, so don't worry if this happens to you.

I then whisked in 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin pie filling or approximately one half of one can. It is very important that you use canned pumpkin pie filling and not canned pumpkin, as they are very different.

As I am often ill-prepared and unorganized, I at this point melted one stick of butter for the next step. I melt butter in the microwave in a glass measuring cup. I used unsalted butter because that's what I have, but it really doesn't make a difference in this recipe.

I whisked in the butter, which is not completely effortless because of the oil-water thing, but shouldn't be too much of a problem.

I next used a silicone spatula to scrape the wet ingredients into the dry, then gently used the whisk to fold them together. Yes, you can fold in ingredients with a whisk and it's very efficient. As with all quick breads, you need to be careful not to over-mix.

I banged the batter out of my whisk and sprayed the muffin pan with oil and flour spray. I couldn't use papers with a shaped pan, but I wouldn't anyway. I feel strongly that muffins are nicer baked in a sprayed tin instead of papers.

I used to bake muffins quite often, so I actually have a 2 ounce or 1/4 cup disher (like an ice cream scoop) I bought specifically for that purpose. I got it at a local restaurant-supply store, and it comes in handy for lots of things. So I portioned the batter into the muffin cups.

This is a very thick batter, due to the fiber in the pumpkin, and it will mostly fill the muffin cup and stay in approximately the same shape after baking. I want my shaped muffins to have a flat bottom, so I used a spatula to push the batter into the edges of the pan. You do not have to do this in a standard muffin pan, and it doesn't change the baking time.

I baked the muffins in a 375 degree oven for 18 to 22 muffins. I test muffins and flat cakes for doneness by touching the top-center; if it springs back a little bit, it's done, and if it smooches (be gentle) it needs more time.

You should cool the muffins 10 minutes in the pan, then on a rack. It was late, and I was impatient, so I didn't wait. Consequently, a couple muffins broke. This is fortuitous and not completely accidental, as my kids and I will eat the broken ones. Did I mention that these are really good?

Pumpkin Muffins (High-Altitude Adjustments in Parentheses)

Makes 12

8 3/4 oz or 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder (2 tsp in high altitude)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1 cup packed or 7 oz dark brown sugar (2 tbsp less or 6 1/4 oz total in high altitude)

1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin pie filling

8 tbsp or 1 stick melted butter, melted but not bubbling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray muffin tin with flour and oil spray.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg and sugar. Mix in the pumpkin, then the butter.

Scrape the wet ingredients into the dry. Gently fold with whisk or silicon spatula. Do not over-mix.

Scoop the batter into the muffin tin. Bake 18 to 22 minutes, or until the muffin resists slightly when touched. Let cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out on cooling rack. Cool until no longer steaming and eat warm.


  1. these sound absolutely yummy. I eat so much canned pumpkin when it is cool out. We'll have to try this recipe. Thank you for sharing.

    1. All the fiber and vitamins are healthy, if you can ignore the butter and sugar :-)

  2. Hi Melanie! I've bookmarked this recipe. I have to try it!

    You commented on my blog - SugarDotCookies. I'd love to chat with you! I don't see a contact page here. I hope you'll come back and contact me! (I hate to leave my email address in comments for fear of spambots.)

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I understand. I messaged you at your blog.