Monday, September 19, 2016

Butternut Squash Muffins

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Fall is here and my inner Basic Bitch is going bananas. (Follow my favorite tag #basicbitchesunite on instagram) Pumpkin Spice is King during these fabulous months, and his lovely Queen Apple Cider reigns benevolently at his side. That being said, there are more than enough fruits and vegetables to go around during this time of year that you can consume to maintain your seasonal lifestyle.

Things that are in season, in America, this Fall:

  • Apples
  • Beets
  • Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts
  • Cranberries
  • Pears
  • Persimmons
    • Here in Kansas City, you can find the wild ones!
  • Pomegranates 
    • Persephone Returns to her Husband, Hades!
  • Squash of all varieties
  • Pawpaws
    • True American Fruit!
  • Chinese long beans
    • These are AMAZING on the grill!
  • Okra
  • Green beans
  • Quince
    • Important: Cook these for jams and jellies...they are inedible while raw!
  • Sweet potatoes
I personally have found everything except for the pomegranates at my local farmers market. Since I work at a farmer's market, too, I often get the pick of the litter in exchange for cookies or a loaf of bread. Bartering between market stall owners is honestly the main way I get groceries nowadays. I, of course, shop at wholesale stores for my bakery, Pistachio Bakehouse, but I barely go to the grocery store every other week for myself, mostly for toiletries and dog food. Otherwise, I barter with my farmers for produce and I go to The Local Pig(famously local butcher in Kansas City) for my meats and eggs. 

Cooking and eating seasonally is a challenge, and I'd be a jerk to say otherwise. I'm fortunate enough to live in the Midwest, where everything grows. I won't be so lucky in the winter, so I'll have to find alternative methods of finding food, but until then I'm sure I can find a way.

There's been a plethora of butternut squash around me as of late, and I just adore it. Squash is a fabulous food full of potassium and high amounts of fiber, making it a great choice for your heart and bones. You can roast it in chunks, but I find that it's much more versatile in the puree form, especially because this is how you use it for pies, cakes, muffins, etc. Here's how to roast it for puree:

We got these from a local farmer, since mine didn't turn out so great this year...
 Cut your squash in half using a big fukken knife and score in hatch marks using a smaller knife. Scoop out the seeds and, if you're a gardener, too, set aside to wash them free from the pulp and let dry for planting next season. (This does take some work, but it's an investment of time now to pay off later in spades.) I had about ten squash to work with, but simply use this formula:

Per 1 Medium Squash:

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 oz(4 Tbsp) butter, really really soft
  • Two or three nice sage leaves from the garden
Rub the sage leaves a few times between your palms to release the oils. Rub the butter all over the fleshy side of the squash, then rub in the sage and salt. Roast first at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Turn the heat down to 325 and then continue roasting for another 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and then cover with aluminum foil. Let set for about 15 minutes, or until cool enough to handle with your hands. 
dat color tho

Scoop out the squash from its skin and pop it in a blender/food processor, and puree until smooth. You can pop this mixture into mason jars and can it for later use, or you can use some now for muffins! This is makes and exceptionally delicious spice cake and it's just lovely with a hot tea or a cold morning. 


Butternut Squash Spice Muffins
Adapted from Quick Breads by Liz Franklin

Cake:

  • 320 g Cake flour
  • 1 tsp Baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 200 g brown sugar
  • 100 ml Maple syrup
  • 50 g coconut oil
  • 50 g olive oil
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp Rum extract(optional, but yummy!)
  • 150 g butternut squash puree
  • Strusel topping, if desired
Strusel Topping
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, soft
Make your strusel first by combining all ingredients in the bowl of your standing mixer and blending with the dough hook until it all comes together when you take a handful and squeeze it in your fist. You can set this aside in a separate container, in the refrigerator, for up to a month. Make sure you write the date using a piece of tape and a sharpie! Organization will set you free...

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. 

Combine your dry ingredients (flour, spices, baking soda, salt, brown sugar) in the bowl of the standing mixer and mix to combine with the paddle attachment. Add in your fat and stir for about a minute, until the mixture is sort of crumbly-looking. Add in your liquid ingredients(maple syrup, extract, eggs, and squash) all at once and stir until everything comes together, but do not over-mix. It's 10000000% okay if the mixture is lumpy, just be sure to scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl once more before popping it in your mold.

This recipe makes a very nice loaf cake for your eating pleasure, but I much prefer to have them in individual muffins, lined with paper. The reason I don't just spray the bejeezus out of a muffin tin and pop in my batter? Well, there are a few...

This recipe is what is known as a quickbread, and therefore "rises quickly." In order for it to get a nice top, the batter has to be able to climb the sides and stick to them so it expands as it bakes. If I were to spray the pan, my batter would release easily from the sides after baked, sure, but they'd be sadly short and muffin-top-less. If I have a loaf pan, I'll simply spray and then flour, so that it'll both be easy to release but the batter will have something to cling on to as it rises, resulting in lovely, even bubbles and a light, fluffy muffin. 

Here's a little naughty Chef's trick: After I've panned my batter(put it in the pans), I let it sit for about 5 minutes while the oven gets up to temperature. Quickbreads are meant to be quick, yes, but baking soda is activated by both moisture and acid. Since this is a fairly low-acid recipe, you have a little leeway to let those flour granules soak up some of that lovely moisture from the eggs and squash. Sugar is also highly hygroscopic, so the high amount in this recipe helps you keep this muffin moist anyway....but why go halfway when you could go all the way by letting it rest?

Once my batter is panned and rested, and my oven heated, then go ahead and sprinkle on that yummy strusel topping, if you're using it, and bake. Set your timer for 25 minutes and then check them with a toothpick. If you're super-precise like me, you should temp your cakes/breads/quickbreads at about 200 degrees F with a thermometer. Mine took about 27 minutes in my oven at home, but your oven will likely behave differently.

Allow the quickbread to cool for about 15 minutes before removing from the pan, and then cool completely before cutting into it. Enjoy it with some warm apple cider and an infinity scarf while you drag your boyfriend Jeremy to the apple orchard.