It goes without saying, really, but if Fall had its own representative flag, there would definitely be a pumpkin on it. Pumpkin is just one of the best ingredients for Fall. Each season brings about its own version of comfort food, and this pulpy, plump squash is very versatile in giving us that comfort. From soups to desserts, there’s so much one can do with it. Not that I’ve, err, done a whole lot with it. Yet. Moving on.
I love pumpkin muffins. While I was pregnant with my daughter, the folks at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive thru got to know me by my expanding girth and big grinning cheeks, if not by name. (Yes, hello, it’s me…again. Hur hur.) And I love love love the pumpkin cream cheese muffins from Starbucks. The rich hint of spice and sweet cream is a very heady mixture for the taste buds. And we do like to treat the taste buds to something heady once in a while.
I found this recipe on a wonderful food blog called Annie’s Eats, who in turn got it from someone else trying (possibly) to copy the Starbucks version. When we halved one of the muffins, though, and I took my first bite, I knew these were miles above and beyond even my favorite coffee joint’s muffins. In fact, I think these are the best muffins I’ve ever eaten period.
We made these for the blog two weekends ago, then I made TWO batches (48 muffins) all by my lonesome the following weekend. My feet hated me, but my tastebuds wanted to elect for another term in office. Some the second baking time around were for hubby to take to his office, and some for, you know, to have at home. *munch* The first single batch was mostly devoured by my coworkers. Anyway, hubby’s coworkers had an actual bet going on how I got the cream cheese in the muffins. I get this call from hubby, his coworkers in the background. I told him to say it was “magic”. He replied that, that’s exactly what he told them. Ha! Another example for the Why I Married Him file.
This is your filling, your cream cheese “log”. Um, OK, yes, it’s a little…funny looking. Heh. But once you’ve combined some powdered sugar with the cream cheese, you’ll make one of these fellas, place it in the freezer for a good while and slice pieces for each muffin well after putting in a smidgen of muffin mixture first. It’s important to do this step first and ahead of time so it’ll have plenty of time to freeze. You’ll need at least an hour, maybe two, in the freezer.
Ahh, the dry ingredients. Dry ingredient pictures always look so boring, don’t they? It’s mostly flour, so it just looks….flour-y. Woohoo. But hidden in this batch of mostly flour is some insane taste thrillers! Cloves! Cinnamon! Punkin (yes, punkin, pumpkins are punky little delicious things) Pie Spice! Nutmeg! We were putting all this in thinking it would be overkill. Good news is once we tasted the finished product, our taste buds fainted dead away, revived and died again in bliss and revived and so on.
Isn’t that color gorgeous? After whipping up the pumpkin, eggs, oil and sugar for a few, we’ll add in the dry ingredients.
See what we mean? Just enough muffin mixture to cover the bottom of each well, then a slice of cream cheese in each, fill with more muffin mixture aaaand…..
Don’t forget this almost sandy-looking mixture for the top! It completes these muffins. It will complete you.
There we go. That’s what we’ve been waiting for. As the muffins were nearing completion in the oven, both sis and I opened the oven real quick (please don’t smite us, kitchen gods) to make sure all was well and we both let out, “Oh my!” These things baked up much bigger than we’d anticipated! Not that we’re complaining. Oh noes. *chomp*
At this point, I had no words. I was awash with pumpkiny spicy madness and glee. It was the kind of moment when you feel infinitely rewarded for your efforts. Now, please go make these crazy-good muffins.
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
From Annie’s Eats (You should definitely check out her blog, it’s wonderful!)
Prep Time: 2 1/2 hours* Cook Time: 20-25 minutes Level: Easy Serves: 24 muffins
Equipment: You’ll need on hand TWO regular muffin pans (that make a dozen each)
For the filling:
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
For the muffins:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups pumpkin puree
- 1¼ cups vegetable oil
For the topping:
- ½ cup sugar
- 5 tbsp. flour
- 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- 4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1½-inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.This is also a step you can do ahead. The second time I made these I actually di this step the night before and they were fine and no harder to slice.
To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated. You might want to stir it a time or two with a spatula just in case all the dry ingredients didn’t get incorporated towards the bottom of the bowl.
To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.
To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons). Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces – we made our log about 12-13 inches long and sliced about 1/4 thickness for each slice. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups (another 2 or so tablespoons), placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells. We used a cereal-size spoon for each muffin, using it all up.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving. DO let them cool down sufficiently, the cream cheese filling will be very hot.
*Don’t let the prep time scare you. Most of that is waiting for the cream cheese log to freeze. And remember you can even do that step the day before and save some time!
Since we’re on the subject of cream cheese again, I did put these muffins in the fridge – just in case. I would say if you want to leave them out, more than a day or two would probably be OK. But I like to at least keep ‘em in the fridge, being a little obsessive about that. I’m betting you could also freeze them to save for the long haul….but…could you really resist them for that long?
If you have the time, you could make two batches like I did the second time around. These things are soooo good, and one batch might just create an angry mob demanding more. If you made a second batch you could throw them at the masses while you duck for cover. Everyone wins!