Best Ever Pumpkin Muffins

Not long ago, in conversation with a fellow foodie (F.F), the topic of Fall food came up. While F.F -- who is (mostly) Italian -- waxed poetic about things like pumpkin ravioli and tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms, I described in detail the pumpkin craze the U.S experiences, the one where pumpkin doughnuts, bread, cake, and even coffee take over bakeries, cafes, and kitchens from the months of October and November. I myself had quite the pumpkin-infused agenda in store for the autumn, with imminent plans to make things like pumpkin pie/cake/muffins, all of which would be made with pumpkin supplied by my parents, who had visited Rome from the U.S not long ago. F.F was pleased to hear this -- the more baked goods, the merrier -- but was confused. Couldn't I find pumpkin here? Why did my parents need to bring it all the way from America? And most puzzling of all: how did they fit that many pumpkins in to their luggage? Weren't they heavy? 

Ahh, cultural differences! The pumpkin I was referring to of course was not a fresh pumpkin that one might use in Italy but rather canned pumpkin, more specifically cooked, pureed pumpkin, preferably Libby's brand, packed and sealed for quick easy use. F.F was bemused -- he had never heard of pumpkin that came out of a can. Come to find out, neither had any of my other non-American friends; even the all-knowing Carla Tomasi had just heard about it, but nothing more:

[15:49, 11/21/2019] Francesca: thoughts on canned pumpkin, btw?
[15:55, 11/21/2019] Carla Tomasi : I have never seen/tasted/ use for it here!

I should've known: like marshmallows, regular sized chocolate chips, and peanut butter, canned pumpkin is an ingredient that is very specific to the U.S, one that goes hand-in-hand with my home country's propensity for ease and efficiency and supports our annual pumpkin-mania; indeed, it is absolutely essential to autumn baking, and disappears without fail off supermarket shelves right before Thanksgiving, all in the name of Pumpkin Pie. While I certainly wouldn't be against roasting my own pumpkin for baking, the American in me will opt for the Libby's option every time; after all, anything that cuts down significantly on the prepare-bake-devour time is good in my book, yes? 
But to the recipe!  I've already covered pumpkin done the Italian way -- these cloud-like, lightly spiced, sage-tinged gnocchi di zucca -- but as P&B is a blog that shares recipes from both my adopted and home country, I felt it was only right to share pumpkin done the American way, or rather, the quintessential American muffin made with yes, you guessed it, canned pumpkin. Apart from being one of the easiest recipes to throw together, you'll find that these beauties taste like Fall, poured and baked in a muffin pan, soft and fluffy and filled with warming spices like cinnamon and ginger and nutmeg, which essentially equate to the culinary version of a warm sweater on a cold day. They make for a cozy breakfast or a great afternoon pick-me-up, and the scent they fill your house with will make you downright happy, and, if you're anything like me, the most popular person on the fourth floor of your building (these are fantastically fragrant). Make these asap and thank me later.

Canned pumpkin: what would Fall be without you?!

A couple of notes: As you can see from the photo above, these also make great (and very adorable) mini muffins. The flavor of these are on the lightly spiced side, which actually made them perfect for my Italians friends who ate them (Italians aren't big fans of cinnamon and ginger and things like that -- it just really isn't used in their cuisine or desserts). You can find canned pumpkin at Castroni here in Rome; however, if you cannot get your hands on canned pumpkin, you can certainly use fresh (see how to make your own fresh pumpkin here). You can also use squash here in place of the pumpkin, and I suspect these would also be delicious with roast, mashed sweet potato used in place of the pumpkin, something that is doable now even in Italy, where sweet potatoes are now found in supermarkets (!!!) These muffins keep well; according to the recipe, they stay moist for up to 5 days if kept in the fridge in an airtight container (I wouldn't know, as they didn't last very long). The muffins can also be frozen for up to 2 months (feed your freezer!).

Looking for other pumpkin recipes? On this blog I have posts on pumpkin cakepumpkin pancakes,  pumpkin chocolate chip barspumpkin French toast,  pumpkin pie, pumpkin gingerbread cake, and pumpkin bread

Recipe from Pretty Simple Sweet. Makes 12-16 muffins.

1 and 2/3 cups (230g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (100g) light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable or canola oil
1 and 1/4 cups (285g) pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
1/4 cup (60ml) milk

Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C. Line muffin cups with liner papers if you're using them, or grease a 12-cup muffin pan.
In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, granulated sugar and brown sugar until combined. Ad oil and whisk until combined. Add pumpkin and milk and whisk until combined. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture and mix gently just until combined.

Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake for 16-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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