Prep: 20 min // Cook: 20 min // Bake: 20 min
Not that I'm a huge fan of Halloween, but my family is. Plus I love all things pumpkin and pumpkins are in abundance during this period in October so I frantically cook using this superfood in-season fruit.
Benefits of Pumpkin
Pumpkins and squashes are superfood vegetables (although equally considered fruit too) which, as most of the superfoods I know, is native to South America. Pumpkins live up to their hype regarding their health benefits and are hence considered a superfood. Except being delicious and sweet, they are dense in nutrients and low in calories, which very important for a healthy balanced lifestyle and weight control. They pack a series of the most important vitamins that boost our immune system, along with antioxidants, potassium and high in fibre, to protect our hearts.
These muffins are resembling a lot of carrot cake, both in texture and moisture. For this recipe, I've also incorporated some special ingredients and techniques: I used ground almonds which adds texture, taste and moisture (and protein too). Pumpkin and almond make a great combination in many Meditteranean desserts. I also borrowed a technique of cooking pumpkin for the making of sweet pumpkin or squash pies in the Greek islands: cooking the pumpkin with sweet white onions (for extra sweetness), ground pepper and spices, yum!
Ingredients (makes 12 muffins)
400-500g pumpkin or butternut squash flesh
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp honey or maple syrup
250g self-raising flour
80g ground almonds
1 tsp baking soda
80g mixed dried fruit or just raisins
1.5 tbsp mixed spice (or make your own mix of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger)
some pumpkin seeds and flaked almonds for decoration
Self-raising flour with plain flour: To make your own self-raising flour, mix 100g plain flour with 2 tsp baking powder although the result for some reason might not be the same but still tolerable. Make sure your baking powder hasn't expired ;-)
Baking soda with baking powder: although they are different chemically, they are both leaveners to aid in rising. Baking soda is reacting with the fruity acids causing the whole mixture to rise. Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda (in lower consistencies), cream of tartar and cornstarch and therefore you will need a bit more of it to replace baking soda (3 tsp of powder to replace 1 tsp of soda). Again, check on the expiry dates before using.
Ground Almonds with Semolina: Uncooked semolina has a similar texture to ground almonds so it can be used as a substitute. The results can vary depending on the composition of the mixture, so it will need to be tried and tested.
Peel the pumpkin, remove and discard the seeds from the core and as much as possible from the fiber hairy stuff. Grate the pumpkin using the big holes on your grater.
Add a drizzle of vegetable oil in an anti-stick pan with a matching lid and cook the diced onion for 2-3 minutes until soft. Lower the heat, add the pumpkin, 1/2 tsp of ground pepper and 1/2 tbsp of the spice mix and cook (closed lid) in low heat for around 20-25 minutes until the pumpkin is soft and can be broken down with a fork. Add a splash of water if your pumpkin is too dry and sticks on the bottom of the pan.
In the meantime, in a big bowl sift the flour and then toss the remaining spices, ground almond, baking soda and a pinch of salt and stir well. These are your dry ingredients.
When the pumpkin is cooked remove from heat and stir in 1 tbsp of honey and the dried fruits (or raisins), and let it cool down altogether. The dried fruits will absorb some of the moisture and soften.
In another bowl, mix the wet ingredients: crack the eggs, spoon the remaining honey and beat until incorporated.
Preheat the oven to 180c (160c fan).
Add the cooked pumpkin into the wet ingredient bowl and mix well. Then fold this mixture into the dry ingredients using a spoon (do not overmix) and then distribute it evenly into the muffin tin holes. Grease the holes first or use muffin/cupcake cases and don't overfill as the muffins will rise during baking.
Sprinkle the tops with flaked almonds and pumpkin seeds or any other topping of your preference (some like desiccated coconut too).
Bake 20- 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.
Allow them to cool down for 10 min before serving. The more they stay out chilling, the deeper the spices penetrate and integrate into the flavour. I would suggest serving an hour (or two) after cooling down.
I also decorated some of them using a soft icing store-bought tube (see recommended products below) with a wide nozzle to draw Halloween inspired themes as this bandage wrap look in the photos.
Happy Haloween! 🎃
Pumpkin will keep for a couple of weeks or even more outside the fridge, flesh being protected under the thick skin. However, once you cut it, it won't survive for more than 2-3 days in the fridge. When I buy a big pumpkin for a recipe, there are almost always leftover bits that I freeze after chopping them in small bite size chunks. I wrap them in cling film and freeze them in a sealable freezer bag (or use two bags instead). They usually keep their nutrient state for 3-4 months in the freezer.
Find some more recipes with Pumpkin here.
Below are my favourite authentic products I used to cook and shoot this recipe. If you can't see the icons and links (affiliate), please deactivate your ad-blocker :-) By clicking and purchasing through the links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
White Designer's Icing: I usually buy this Dr.Oetker from Amazon (or any other brand from the supermarket) when I'm too lazy to prepare my own and mess up the kitchen with piping bags and nozzles. It comes into an easily squeezable pouch and with 4 different nozzles to choose for your design. Very good taste too.
Ground Almond: It is widely used in baking as it gives an elegant, moist texture, and is absolutely recommended if you are on a gluten-free diet for medical reasons (I do not support gluten-free diet for non-medical reasons as gluten is a very important protein for our diet). Ground almonds are widely used in curries and lots of vegan recipes to add texture too. It's a must-have in your cupboard. This Whitworths brand is the best I've tried out there and works pretty good with my bakes.
Muffin and Cupcake Bake Tray // Cooling Wire Rack
I use them for muffins and cupcakes. Le Creuset is always the best choice but as it is quite pricey, so I'm posting below another brand that I've used and worked out pretty well for me! I wouldn't recommend the silicone tray, turned up pretty annoying and messy getting your bakes off the moulds.