Being from the Midwest, I think I have a soft spot for Fall in my heart.
When the seasons change, the cool breeze whips through my hair with just enough of a chill to make me feel alive and breathe a little deeper, but not enough to force me to rush back to the warmth of the indoors. I want to be cozy, but I also don't want to miss a minute of nature's last hurrah. The scattering of gorgeous leaves on the ground is a treat for the eyes, and is almost always accompanied by the scratching and scurrying sounds of dried leaves blowing across the ground. The combination of rustic, muted colors together with crimson and yellow leaves is always spectacular, and the first arrival of bright orange pumpkins is a cause for celebration.
So if you are like me, when Fall comes, you want to get outside and soak up the fleeting clean, cool air with hikes, late afternoon picnics, and hayrides. But at the same time, the urge to warm up indoors beckons. And naturally, the best way to warm up inside is to bake.
Lately, my urge to bake has been insatiable - I have definitely baked more in the last three weeks than I have in the last three months combined, and I think that is directly related to the arrival of Fall and the warm comforting flavors it brings with it. But let me tell you who has totally out-baked me: my sister. I told you before that she has fallen in love with baking, and that affair just continues to blossom as she has been baking up fantastic sweet treats almost every other day. And now it is sort of ironic because the tables have turned - she is recommending baking recipes to me instead of the other way around!
So she told me she had found this pumpkin muffin recipe on Smitten Kitchen, adapted it for mini muffins, made them for friends, and they loved them. I was happy for her (because it is an awesome feeling when people love your food), but I have never been all that interested in muffins so I didn't give the recipe itself much thought. But then she told me she made them again, multiple times. As in, she made them four times. Four times. Well then, that got my attention.
Since they were full of fall-inspired spices and great pumpkin flavor (and mini! who doesn't love miniature things?) I decided to give them a shot. And whoa. Let me tell you.
First of all, this is a one-bowl recipe that can be made with just a whisk. All the ingredients can be mixed together and the muffins can be in the oven within 5 minutes. In fact, I think it takes longer to grease the muffin tins than to prepare the ingredients. I am not exaggerating, it is really that easy. And then guess what - the muffins are done baking in about 12 minutes, which by my estimation, means I have warm, fluffy mini pumpkin muffins in about 20 minutes total. The muffins released from the pan easily, and when I popped the first little baby muffin out of the pan and into my mouth, I was in heaven. It was moist and soft. It was perfectly spiced and perfectly sweet. And it was bite-sized.
Which meant I could eat two. (Or more than two. Shhh... don't tell.)
I took the muffins into work, and they all disappeared in a matter of hours. In fact, my co-workers were scrambling to get the last ones before they were gone. (Seriously, someone said, "Oh yeah, there is only one left," and another co-worker immediately jumped up from her chair and pretty much ran to the office to get it. Totally awesome.)
Then I followed in my sister's footsteps and made them again. And again. Three times. Will you think I am crazy if I am planning to bake another batch this weekend? They are just so easy and sooooo good that is tough to find an excuse not to make them.
So this weekend, in the midst of your halloween celebrations and mid-Fall events, take out 20 minutes and bake. Bake by yourself, bake with your kids, or bake with friends. But please, just make sure you bake these mini pumpkin muffins. I don't have any reservations about tell you that they are the best.
You might also like: Pumpkin Bread, and Rum Raisin Pumpkin Bread Pudding (with Butter Rum Glaze!)
One year ago: Spiced Pear and Cranberry Pocket Pies
The Best Mini Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
This recipe makes between 24 and 28 mini pumpkin muffins, depending on the exact size of your mini muffin pan and the amount of batter you add to each. Overall, this recipe is very flexible, and I have tried a few different variations: you can substitute brown sugar for some of the white sugar, applesauce for some of the vegetable oil, and you can add or subtract the amount of spice you use. I also decided to sprinkle turbinado sugar on the top of mine, but you could think about using crumbled nuts or extra spices. Oh, and don't hesitate to buy the big 24oz. can of solid-pack pumpkin - then you will have enough on hand to make multiple batches of this recipe, because trust me, you will want to.
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp ground ginger (optional)
1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
About 1 tbsp turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)
About 1/2 tsp extra cinnamon for sprinkling on top (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and grease the cups of a mini muffin tin very well.
In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, all spices, baking soda and salt. Then whisk in the flour until the batter is just smooth.
Divide the batter among the greased muffin cups, filling each one just a bit more than 3/4 full. Sprinkle the top of each mini muffin with a bit of turbinado sugar and bake in a preheated oven for about 10-14 minutes, or until they are golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Watch them and check them often, because they go from still wet in the inside to fully baked in just a matter of minutes. Mine were the most moist at about 12 minutes.
Cool the mini muffins on a rack until cool enough to handle, and then remove them to cool fully. Eat immediately or store muffins in an airtight container and keep refrigerated if storing longer.