butternut squash muffins
Last Sunday, after recommending cooking and gardening books at my favorite local independent bookstore’s holiday soiree, I returned home to find a hungry Chris. The soiree had involved wine and books and food and, well, conversations about wine and books and food, so naturally I’d lost track of time. I had not, however, lost track of the leftover muffins I’d baked in order to charm people into buying Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook, and I kindly offered one to hungry Chris. “What kind of muffins are they,” Chris scoffed, “squash?”
First of all, Chris may be the only (hungry) person I know who can conceive of an ingredient one might normally put in muffins that he would be unwilling to eat. I mean, unless the muffins are filled with pickles they’re likely to at least be edible. But second of all — and more importantly — the muffins in question were, in fact, made from squash.
“I think squash is your new zucchini,” Chris decided, at which point he was treated not just to a muffin but also to a fairly lengthy and very interesting oration on the differences between summer squash and winter squash.
He’s right though: we have been eating a lot of squash. The winter kind, because it’s winter. And by winter I mean that until today, when it reached a balmy 36°F, there was about two and a half feet of snow on the ground. Regardless of what the calendar says about the upcoming solstice, it already feels pretty damn wintry. Locally grown produce consists of squash, potatoes and — through some sort of lovely greenhouse magic — leafy greens. While I adore leafy greens in the abstract, I rarely know what to do with them once I’ve gotten them home, so I’ve been stocking up on squash. It’s wonderfully versatile, keeps well and, as it turns out, makes an awful yummy muffin.
Yummy comes in quite handy if you (for example) attempt to make mini muffins without the help of a mini muffin tin, but yummy is only half the story. Because in addition to being yummy, these muffins are easy peasy — you know, if you want to get all adorable and British about it. For starters, Jamie assures us that there’s no need to peel the squash, and having eaten, um, several of these muffins I can confirm his advice. Secondly, the muffin-making process consists of little more than dumping things into your food processor and pressing the pulse button. Then while the muffins bake you whip up a delightfully tangy little frosting using sour cream, confectioner’s sugar, clementines, and vanilla. The tanginess of the frosting and the sweetness of the squash combine to create a perfectly delicious little (misshapen) muffin.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Butternut Squash Muffins with a Frosty Top
adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home
for the muffins
14 oz. butternut squash, skin on
1½ c. brown sugar (Jamie’s recipe calls for 2¼ c., but wow that’s a lot of sugar!)
2½ c. flour
2 heaping t. baking powder
½-1 c. chopped walnuts (I used pecans, which is what I always do when a recipe calls for walnuts)
1 t. cinnamon
¾ c. olive oil
for the frosting
zest of 1 clementine
zest and juice of half a lemon
½ c. sour cream
2-4 T. confectioner’s sugar
1 vanilla bean (you can substitute 1T. vanilla extract)
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease your muffin tins or line them with paper cups.
2) Slice the squash in half vertically and scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh. Chop the squash roughly or shred it using the food processor.
3) Whiz (Jamie’s word) the squash in your food processor until finely chopped. Add the sugar, then crack in the eggs. Add a pinch of salt, the flour, baking powder, nuts, cinnamon and olive oil, and whiz together just until combined.
4) Fill the muffin cups with the batter. It’s fine to fill them almost all the way to the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center muffin comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
5) As the muffins bake, make the frosting. Place the clementine zest and lemon zest & juice in a medium bowl. Add the sour cream and confectioner’s sugar and mix well. Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and spread each half open. Scrape the seeds into the frosting using the dull side of a paring knife. Stir until combined. Place frosting in refrigerator until the muffins have cooled.
6) Spoon frosting over muffins and serve.
These muffins are delicious when freshly baked but nothing to write home about the next day, so don’t overdo it.