Autumn in DC

Autumn is by far the most lovely season in the District.  The weather is still warm, but a bit crisp - just enough so you can wear a favorite cardigan.  You can retire your summer clothes, or just blend them with boots and scarves.  Best, though, is the softness in the evening light, when you walk your puppy around the neighborhood, and see leaves changing colors. Autumn is also my favorite cooking season.  This weekend I made pumpkin muffins. Now I know that muffin is just a sneaky word for cake, but I'm knocked up, so I think these qualify as a breakfast food and not dessert.

Pumpkin Pecan Crunch Muffins

makes about 18 standard muffins or 2 pans full of small, breakfast-sized muffins

for topping (I actually doubled this part)

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup demerara sugar (raw cane sugar, also called turbinado)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

for muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 15-ounce can 100% pure pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two standard muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray.

For the topping: Combine flour, butter, demerara sugar, chopped pecans and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

For the muffins: Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl and mix well (I like to use a whisk). Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar at low speed until just blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; continue beating at medium speed until very light and fluffy, a few minutes. Add pumpkin and beat until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Turn speed down to low and mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Use an ice cream scoop to transfer batter to muffin pans, filling each muffin tin about 3/4 full. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter. Bake for about 30 minutes. Let cool on rack for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely (use a butter knife to lift them out of pan).

Tips:

* When making muffins, always fill any empty muffin tins halfway with water. This ensures that your muffins will bake evenly.

* You can make these muffins without the crunchy topping, just be sure to increase the sugar in the muffins to 1 3/4 cup.

* You can reheat these muffins by giving them a quick blast in the microwave.