It took me a while to warm up to pumpkin. When I was a child, sweet potatoes ruled the kingdom during the holidays. Pumpkins were nowhere to be found, unless one of my parents decided to plop one — uncarved of course — on the front porch for Halloween. If many of my other friends had not mentioned the pumpkin pies on their Thanksgiving table, I may never have known that the heavy fruit was edible. Years later, my eyes have been opened to the novel and tasty ways in which pumpkin can be used, and they extend well beyond that of pie.
Although most of us slide pumpkins into a group with other vegetables, they are actually fruits. The seeds inside make it so. The orange flesh inside is slightly sweet with a tender bite when cooked, and the seeds — also known as pepitas once roasted–offer a satisfying crunch. Health-wise, a small serving size of pumpkin is low in calories, full of fiber, potassium, vitamin C and the antioxidant beta-carotene, and the seeds have the ability to lower bad cholesterol. One small pumpkin is literally a power-packed nutritional fruit that you can easily incorporate into your diet and pair with a variety of healthy sweeteners, fresh herbs and spices. The cooked flesh is soft and moist, making it perfect for soups, stews, chilis, pastas, and baking cookies, cakes, muffins and quick breads.
The very first time I decided to cook with pumpkin, I decided to stay in the vein of baked goods. It was a familiar and worthwhile plan. A batch of pumpkin muffins caught my eye, but I wanted to add another level of flavor to the muffin itself in addition to more crunch. Brown butter is at the base of the batter to provide another level of depth in each bite. A crumbly topping of oats and cashews adds extra fiber and a touch more of the healthy fats to a muffin that is a great breakfast or snack option.
Brown Butter Pumpkin Muffins – 1 dozen (Muffin only adapted from Picky Cook)
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 oats
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla
- 15 ounces pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh nutmeg
- Start with the streusel topping by placing the cashews, flour, brown sugar, and oats in a food processor. Blend until combined, then add the butter and blend again until the mixture becomes crumbly. (If you do not have a food processor, whisk the ingredients together in a bowl, then stir in the butter until the mixture forms crumbs.) Set into the refrigerator to chill.
- Spray a muffin tin with baking spray and set aside.
- For the muffin batter, set the butter into a small pan over medium heat and warm until all of the butter has melted, and it begins to crackle and pop, turn brown, and milk solids separate and float to the bottom of the pan, approximately 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar, vanilla, pumpkin puree and eggs until smooth. Pour the slightly cooled brown butter into the egg mixture and mix together. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt together in a separate bowl. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Scoop batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each cup about 3/4 of the way. Sprinkle about 2-3 tablespoons of the chilled streusel topping over each one, pressing the crumbles lightly into the batter if they fall off. Grate fresh nutmeg over each muffin cup, then bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet halfway through baking. Remove from oven and allow to cool a few minutes before removing from the tin.