Guest Post Eats: Pumpkin Pie Spiced Sweet Potato Muffins

11:00 AM

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 Spiced sweet potato muffins with two different crumbly toppings.

Hello there!  I'm Annie, and I play mad scientist in the kitchen.  Sara asked me to do a guest post on her blog featuring my first attempts at this particular #FallShit themed muffin venture, so I hope you enjoy!  I would also like to say thanks for the opportunity to try my hand at a food blog post.  I felt even more inspired to keep working on these babies beyond their maiden voyage as a result!

Let it be known that I love pumpkin.  In fact, it is my most favorite kind of pie.  I used to gorge on it every season with a mountain of whipped cream covering each slice.  Then, one year, I developed a sudden head-to-toe, hive-inducing allergy to the gourd.  Coincidentally, that was the same year I decided to take on a whole pie by myself on Christmas Eve.  But hey, at least pumpkin went out with a bang, right?  

Then, one glorious Thanksgiving, after years of deprivation and endless wandering through a pumpkin-less darkness, I discovered sweet potato pie.  I was overjoyed to see that it not only looked like pumpkin pie, but it ate like one as well with its similarly thick custardy texture and creamy smoothness.  So, I have been appeasing my pumpkin pie monster by throwing sweet potaters at it for years.

This season, after being inspired by Sara's Guest Post Eats: Iced Pumpkin Cookies, I began to think I wanted to try something new.  I believe one of our mutual friends described those cookies as "crack cookies."  Unfortunately, I can only eat "crack cookies" with my eyes, (and what remains of my pie-gorging memories).  So, I went on a search for something else sweet potato-ish, but with a faux-pumpkin feel.  After two experiments, I think I may have found it!

For starters, I seized in on this spiced sweet potato muffin recipe because I was impulsive the first time around, and I pretty much had every ingredient required at home.  

NOTE: The original recipe says it makes a dozen large muffins, but for some reason I came out like a bandit with 48 minis the first time, and 24 minis plus a dozen large the second time.  Perhaps my muffin pans are smaller than average.  Who knows?  I'm not an expert.

Anyway, I did make a few changes to the original.  Rather than milk, I used half & half in the first batch (all I had at the time), and then unsweetened vanilla almond milk in the second, which turned out much better.  Instead of the nutmeg and cinnamon, I used pumpkin pie spice from Milwaukee's The Spice House  Rachael's recipe calls for AP flour, but I used a healthier option; white winter wheat pastry flour which contains less gluten and is lighter in texture.  Instead of brown sugar, I used dark brown sugar.  I thought the deeper molasses flavor might be yummy
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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups winter white wheat pastry flour or all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk/unsweetened almond milk (vanilla flavored works, too!)
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed or processed in a processor
1 teaspoon vanilla

I used my husband's vanilla extract, which he put together using some leftover Jim Beam bourbon whiskey and Madagascar vanilla beans he purchased from Amazon.  He used a one to one ratio because he said he was "cursed with small beans."  That means one bean per ounce of bourbon.  Typically one bean to two ounces is sufficient.

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Beans and a detailed look at the final extract with pretty little bean bits.

As for the hooch, the alcohol is what extracts the flavor, so any type of liquor will do.  Just know the mixture needs to be placed inside a paper bag in a cabinet where you must try to forget about it for a month or two.  After that, keep it stored in that paper bag because light is its enemy and you don't want to vanquish your delicious boozy vampire.  

TOPPING OPTIONS

Next, I needed to figure out a topping!  Rachael's did not have one, so I decided to try a double experiment before settling on which one worked best.  The first was a pecan streusel topping, and the second was one I threw together; a slightly crunchier version without the flour, and with less butter and larger pecan pieces.

The first time I tried the pecan streusel topping, I used white sugar, which resulted in a very light colored streusel for my tastes.  It was delicious and had a nice grainy texture, but I was going for a toastier look.  Plus, I think I over-processed my pecans and let it sit for too long.  So, for the second batch, I subbed the white sugar for dark brown sugar, and they turned out looking more fit for Fall!

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 Comparison of anemic looking streusel on the left with a more toasty looking result on the right.

Pecan Streusel Topping:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup finely chopped pecans
¼ cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar/dark brown sugar

Pecan & Brown Sugar Topping:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup finely chopped pecans
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

For both options, you can either chop the pecans by hand and then mix everything with a fork or use a food processor first to pulse pecans close to your preference and then pulse a few more times with remaining ingredients.  Both methods worked well for me, but make sure the streusel topping does not sit for too long or it will turn into a clump of dough that will be very difficult to sprinkle.

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Streusel topping, post pulse.  This is about what it should look like.

THE BAKING OF THE SPUD

As for the "pump-con" itself (ha ha ha...), the method I used for baking my sweet potato was to poke it with a fork a few times.  Then place it on the middle rack of the oven with a sheet of tin foil on the lower rack to catch the drippings. 

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Spud in the oven.

Next, turn on the oven and bake at 425 degrees for 50 minutes to an hour.  Finally, turn off the oven and leave the potato inside for at least an hour after that.  Remove from oven, allow to cool and then easily remove the skin.  The sweet potato can either be mashed with a fork, (which I tried on one batch and it left some yummy little potato bits) or it can be pureed into a smooth texture, which gives the muffins a more incorporated look and feel.  

PREHEAT & PAN PREP

Eek that thing on up to 350.  The original recipe says 400, but every time I have ever made muffins at 400, they come out too dry and more cooked on the bottom than the rest.  This way, the muffins are evenly cooked and moist.

Also, grease your muffin tin(s) or place papers into the cups.  If you only have one muffin tin and you wind up with more like I did, just bake one after the other, but make sure you are using double acting baking powder if you go that route.

DRY, THEN WET, THEN WET TO DRY
Now let's get down to business.  First, in a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: the flour, salt, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice.

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The dries.

The original recipe calls for 1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg, but like I said, I used pumpkin pie spice.  I started with 1/2 tsp, and then after the first sampling, went whole-hog on a full teaspoon for the second round.

Now, you don't have to sift, but I like to, because it aerates the flour and produces a lighter texture.  Plus, it helps incorporate the ingredients.  Just set a sifter over a bowl, place contents in and gently shake and tap until everything passes through the screen.  Discard or break down any remaining bits.  Then I like to pass a whisk through the flour mixture a few times to be sure everything is dispersed.

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Sifting is uplifting!

Onto the wet!  The first time I made these, I did not have a full cup of sweet potato.  After trying 3/4 cup and a full cup, I found there wasn't too much difference except for a richer color and a little more moisture.  So, if you don't have enough, don't sweat it, they turned out great either way!  Just add a little bit more milk.  Or even Greek yogurt!  That's what I'm going to try next time.  

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The wets.

Now, in a smaller bowl, mix eggs, milk/unsweetened almond milk, brown sugar, canola oil, sweet potato and vanilla.  Add wet to dry and mix slowly until just combined, but don't over-mix or stir too vigorously or those muffins will come out dense and chewy. 

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The mix, all nice and incorporated in the bowl.

DISTRIBUTE & BAKE

Using a 1T for mini muffs or 3T for large, fill each cup with batter, then generously sprinkle on the streusel or crunchy pecan topping. 

Bake for 9-12 minutes for mini muffins or 18-20 minutes for large, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. If they need a bit longer, cook for two-minute increments, checking each time with a toothpick until done.  Carefully remove from pan and place on a rack to cool.

Then repeat once more for second batch, if you have a lot of batter left over like I did.

STORAGE:

These will keep covered on a counter or in a pantry for about 2 days, or in a fridge for about a week.  The best part is that these babies can be frozen for quick breakfasts.  After they are completely cool, you can either wrap them snugly in plastic wrap and bag them in large Ziplocks or bag each individually.  Just 15 seconds on high from frozen (in our microwave) does the trick for the minis.  For large, about 30-40 seconds.  

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And now I shall bid thee farewell on your happy muffin making ventures!  Also, eat lots of pumpkin-y things for me!

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9 Musings

  1. YUM!!!! I love that your husband makes his own vanilla extract. WHat a great idea. Great guest post, this is definitely something I will make!!

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  2. Thanks, two birds! Yes, my husband likes to make all kinds of concoctions. He's a bit of a mad scientist himself. I hope the recipe works out well for you! =)

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  3. Those look SO GOOD! I love muffins! Great guest post!
    http://www.averysweetblog.com/

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  4. Love your way of talking about cooking! Must try this!

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  5. oooh looks tasty!

    (Also, I really like the photos of the dries and wets)

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Talk nerdy to me.