Holy Trinity Muffins
Ever since I became a nursing mom, my appetite has been off the charts. I eat like a growing teenage boy, it seems. Each morning, “pre-breakfast” (a glass of water and a bowl of plain yogurt with honey and seasonal fruit) is followed by breakfast, which in turn is followed by a succession of small meals all day.
Partly I do this because I’m the sort of person that has to. Meaning I get low-blood sugar pretty quickly if my stomach is empty, making me feel equal parts like I’m going to pass out and like I could punch a brick wall. When I’m hungry, watch out (oh, poor, beleaguered Hubs while I was pregnant!). I also eat this way because I’m simply hungry. Even before I started nursing Huxley, I was a regular grazer, nibbling here, chomping there. Once I started nursing, though, my appetite went into overdrive, and hasn’t waned since. My meals and snacks are all healthy ones, mind you, so, while I’m eating more than ever, I actually weigh less than I did before I became pregnant.
All of which leads me to telling you about the muffins pictured above. Three factors combined over the weekend that resulted in the creation of these beauties. Firstly, I was hungry (see above). Secondly, I’d just been flipping through my much-loved copy of Jamie Oliver’s imminently inspiring Jamie At Home and found his recipe for Butternut Squash Muffins with a Frosty Top (the titles of the recipes in the book are worth the purchase price alone). Thirdly, I had a butternut squash sitting on my kitchen counter, begging to be rendered into something magnificent. And so, the holy trinity of hunger, inspiration, and availability combined, culminating in a perfect, mid-winter snack.
I tweaked and played with the recipe a bit, cutting back on the brown sugar, adding some fresh nutmeg, substituting yogurt for sour cream, and omitting fresh vanilla beans (the ones I had on hand had gone all dry and shriveled). I mixed it by hand in a large mixing bowl instead of in a food processor as indicated, since the batter quantity seemed far too much to fit comfortably in my food processor basin. Also, the recipe indicated it would make a dozen, but 12 muffin tins in, I knew I had a good deal more batter on hand. My finished tally was 21 muffins, filling each paper liner with a heaping 1/4 cup helping.
What I love about this recipe is its ease of construction coupled with its use of seasonal ingredients. Butternut squash is partnered up with fresh, winter citrus. The end result is subtly sweet and pluckily puckery. Marry these muffins with a steaming mug of strong black tea and you’ll tame the hungriest of eaters, like me!
Butternut Squash Muffins with a Frosty Top (adapted from Jamie Oliver)
Yield: 21 or so muffins.
(For the Muffins):
-14-16 ounces butternut squash, skin on, deseeded and roughly chopped
-2 cups light brown sugar
-4 large eggs
-1 teaspoon sea salt
-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
-A handful of walnuts (broken into rough pieces)
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
(For the Frosted Topping):
-Zest of 1 Clementine (or an orange; I used a Honeybell)
-Zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 a lemon
-1/2 cup yogurt (or sour cream)
-2 heaping teaspoons powered sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out)
– Lavender buds, fresh orange zest, or rose petals, for topping (optional)
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper cups (if you only own one muffin tin, simply fill and bake the batches in the tin in succession). Set aside.
2) Put the chopped squash into a food processor. Pulse until it is finely minced. Add the sugar and eggs and blend until combined.
3) Place the salt, flour, baking powder and spices in a mixing bowl. Sift to combine. Add the walnuts, squash mixture, and olive oil. Stir with a mixing spoon until fully incorporated. Be sure not to overmix.
4) Fill the muffin liners with 1/4 cup each of batter. Bake in the preheated over 25 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting either a knife or wooden skewer into the muffins. It should come out clean. If it doesn’t, bake an additional 5 minutes and check again for doneness.
5) Remove from the oven, cool in the muffin tin for 5 minutes, and then transfer muffins to a wire rack. Cool completely.
6) Once cooled, make the frosting. Combine the Clementine (or orange) zest, lemon juice and zest, yogurt (or sour cream), powdered sugar, and vanilla extract (or seeds) in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Whisk to fully combine.
7) Place the cooled muffins onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Spoon the frosting evenly over the muffin tops. If desired, sprinkle lavender buds (that’s what I used, from my plants growing in our entrance way), citrus zest, or rose petals on top of the frosting.
8) The frosting will harden a bit as it sits (and will harden completely if refrigerated), so give them time to set up before serving. Serve with hot tea or coffee and kiss your hungry monster goodbye!