This past Saturday brought the beginning of my favorite season. I have been looking forward to fall since I packed away the fall decor last year. I love this season. I love the cooling of the air, the golden sun light, the brisk breezes, the apples, the spices, baking, oh did I say apples, pumpkin, scarecrows, pumpkin spice lattes (which my husband refers to as "harbingers of fall"), oh and apples!! I have been looking forward to this post for a few weeks because this fall brought with it a challenge from my friend Joy involving creating a similar tasting, yet significantly healthier version of Starbuck's pumpkin spice muffin. It involves spices, pumpkin, baking and a challenge.... she had me from the get-go.
I had a few small problems to start with....
1. I had never tasted the original version before.
2. I took a quick look at a copycat recipe on-line and nearly died when I saw the ingredients. Two cups of oil and 2 cups of sugar were NOT going into these babies!
3. I had to find taste testers.
I sat down and planned out how to reduce oil and sugar and keep the muffins from being to dry and too blah. Taste testers presented themselves readily and willingly. Only one problem was left and I decided to embark on this challenging journey with no gustatory comparison what-so-ever. Smart? Perhaps not. Exciting and nerve-racking? Definitely! Really, that's what a cooking/baking challenge is all about. I couldn't wait to bake them and sit back, while biting my nails, as others tested them. I was very lucky to have two "professional taste testers", highly qualified in sampling baked goods, two former Starbuck's baristas, the lovely Chelsea & Austyn!!!
They were baked, they were agonized over and they were sampled. My friends, they were also.....winners!!!
Pumpkin Spice Muffins
3 cups white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 tsp. cloves
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3 1/2 cups pumpkin
1/2 cup applesauce (no sugar added)
3 Tbsp. molasses
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
Candied Nuts or Pumpkin Seeds
2 Tbsp Honey
1/3 cup pecans, walnuts or pumpkin seeds
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. each of ginger, cinnamon, cloves & nutmeg
Cream Cheese Filling
1 pkg. Neufchatel (1/3 less fat) cream cheese, softened
sprinkle in a pinch of each ginger, cinnamon, cloves & nutmeg
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1. Mix dry ingredients for muffins together (flour through baking soda on the ingredients list).
2. In a separate bowl mix pumpkin, applesauce, molasses, vanilla, brown sugar & eggs together.
3. Add dry ingredients to wet and combine.
4. In a small saucepan, heat honey and vanilla until honey is smooth and liquid-like.
5. Add spices to honey/vanilla mixture and mix. Then add nuts. Stir constantly for 1-2 minutes on med-high heat. Nuts should be coated with mixture. Remove from heat.
6. Spoon muffin mixture into muffin cups/tins. Sprinkle candied nuts/seeds on top.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes - until toothpick comes out clean.
8. While muffins back, combine cream cheese, spices and vanilla - you can add a bit of confectioners sugar here too.
9. Once muffins cool a big, use a pastry bag/decorators bag and large tip to insert cream cheese mixture into muffins and dollop on top. OR simply use as a "frosting".
10. ENJOY! They are pretty good for you!
Click here for printable recipe