Tuesday, January 08, 2008

That last sugar pumpkin... and some bright poppy seed muffins!

Whenever we choose recipes for the Weekly Wednesday Treat Day, I try and make sure that there is a decent yield so everyone who wants a treat can have one. While we could just go ahead and double the recipe if it does not make much, I like to make a different flavor of whatever we are making so they have an option in case they prefer one kind over another (or sample each if they so desire!).

Today happened to be one of those days as Jeff asked for muffins this week, but didn't have any preference on what went in them. So I'll talk about these Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins today and we will get to the other "tropical" (hint hint!) ones tomorrow. This recipe produces a kind of cake-like muffin that is tender, yet fairly light and fluffy. It is a little more work as it uses the same method as making a cake where you cream together the butter and sugar, unlike other recipes that don't need a mixer and just use melted butter or oil.

Lemon Poppy Seed MuffinsI did depart from the recipe in couple ways - first, I decided to use half whole wheat pastry flour instead of completely all-purpose. I really like this combination as the muffins gain some nutrition without compromising the texture. The next was in regards to the lemon zest - we used the method we learned from Dorie Greenspan's newest book to rub the sugar and lemon zest together. This releases the bright fragrant oils from the zest into the sugar and intensifies the lemon flavor in the final product. You also have a couple options to top the muffins - you could keep the glaze on the thicker side and drizzle it on top of the cooled muffins to get more of a frosting effect or thin out the mixture a little and brush it on the warm well-crowned muffins. We opted for the latter, so the muffins could absorb some of the glaze and give an extra sweet burst of tangy lemon on the inside while leaving a light sugar-y crust on top. We didn't use all of the glaze during the first coat, so when they cooled, we brushed another layer on top for a more iced effect.

Lemon Poppy Seed MuffinsSo we've had this 3 pound sugar pumpkin we originally bought for decoration around Thanksgiving looking at me daily screaming to be used for something. Since we already had enough mashed pumpkin in the freezer, I needed something different - while I was menu planning this weekend, I came across this Maple Roasted Pumpkin Salad recipe that I intended to make last fall and never got to.

After I hacked away at the pumpkin to get it cubed and cleaned up, we tossed the pieces with olive oil, crushed red pepper and some whole garlic cloves. This mixture goes into a fairly hot oven to roast until the pumpkin can be easily pierced with a fork. At this point, the garlic is plenty soft and needs to be removed - the pumpkin left behind is then sweetened up by a drizzle of pure maple syrup. As the cubes finish off, the sweet mellow garlic is mashed and made into a dressing consisting of fresh lime juice, Dijon mustard, a touch of maple syrup and the leftover olive oil. When the cubed pumpkin was ready, the glaze formed by the syrup made them quite sweet, but combined with the savory dressing and greens, we both thought the sweetness was needed to stand up to the other bold flavors. For the greens, the recipe called for using arugula - while we both like that peppery bite, it can be a little strong for Jeff, so we used half arugula and half baby spinach to tone it down. For a bit of crunch and salty contrast, this main-dish salad is finished off with a sprinkling of toasted pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) and crumbled feta cheese.

Maple Roasted Pumpkin Salad


  1. The muffins is the same recipe as mine. I posted on it Oct. 29. I love that recipe. My two teenage boys rave about it. I have to keep a batch in the freezer for a quick breakfast in the morning.

  2. Gorgeous muffins! It's motivating me to go get some lemons and whip up a batch. Thanks for posting!

  3. love lemon-y foods.... even the word "lemon" just makes my mouth water right away.....

    tx for this one and I found some "nog"... gotta try the cheesecake slices now... hehe..

  4. Joe, those muffins look fantastic - especially with the glaze! I'm bookmarking these - thanks. :)

  5. Helene - I might have to make another batch just to put in the freezer!

    Cookie baker - They are worth the effort.

    Bumblevee - Woo! Lucky to find some nog this late in the season!

    Elisabeth - Hope you get a chance to try them!