There is something truly wonderful about shoving your work laptop under the bed. I would have kicked it for good measure but I stopped myself, fearing the wrath of my IT department. However, I’m spending a few quiet days away from the frenzy of reports, presentations and the endless stream of emails haunting my inbox. Instead I’m focusing on cleaning out my closet and reducing my home to only the things that I need, only the things that I adore. While I eschew resolutions as a practice, I do feel the need to shed things, to practice a little more minimalism in my home — much like how I’ve scaled down the amount of people who inhabit my life. Reducing clutter — in many incarnations — has created a more mindful environment in my life, and I’m seeking to shed all that is unnecessary to focus on what is loved and essential.
Interestingly enough, this dovetails to my cookbook collection. I’ve hundreds of dog-eared magazines, books, print-outs and recipe cards, and to be honest, it’s overwhelming. Often I find that I cleave to a few mainstay cookbooks and frequent the same ten food blogs (a sample of which you’ll find on the right hand side of this post), so much like how I’ve given away bags of clothing, shoes and scarves, I’m also ridding myself of the cookbooks I’ll never use or love in the way I felt I once did.
But one book will definitely remain — Matt Lewis’ + Renato Poliafito’s Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented. In addition to the scores of unexpected delights and drool-worthy confections, you’ll encounter two men who are rapturously, passionately and unequivocally devoted to baking. Their recipes are written in personal prose and you feel very much a part of their kitchen, a natural extension of their home and heart. I’ve made quite a few goods out of this book and I’ve been tremendously impressed.
Today I’m smitten with these Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve infused pumpkin into a recipe (I’m making the PUMPKIN RISOTTO TONIGHT!!!), and this savory treat is worth making. The sharpness of the cheddar is amplified by the spicy cayenne and pepper and tempered by the sweet pumpkin and earthy brown sugar. I love the flavor dichotomy of this muffin and it’s a CINCH to BAKE!!!
INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations: American Desserts Reinvented
1 cup pumpkin puree
3 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups (about 4 ounces) grated sharp cheddar
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, optional
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a 12-cup muffin pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and sour cream. Add the eggs and butter and whisk until combined.
In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper and brown sugar. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well, and fold until just combined. Fold in three-quarters of the cheese.
Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar and the pumpkin sees on top of the muffins. Bake them for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the muffin pan cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out the muffins. Serve them warm. Makes 12 muffins.