Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pumpkin and chocolate muffins, or, the return of the prodigal snack

About ten years ago I worked as a baker-bot at a well known inner city café whose speciality was enormous pumpkin and chocolate muffins (aka the PCM). By speciality, I mean we would have people drive in from hours away and buy a dozen at a time so that they could take them back home and freeze them, or maybe lay them out on the floor and roll around on them, I don’t know. The novelty factor of something sweet with pumpkin (Americans: pumpkin = savoury), combined with masses of chocolate chunks and a rich fudgey texture meant they were like crack to discerning baked goods fans. The mix would be made in enormous batches – 6-8 large, thigh-height containers at a time – out of industrial quantities of flour, frozen pumpkin puree, broken up Richfield’s chocolate offcuts, oil, and egg-in-a-wine-bladder, all mixed with a giant paddle attached to an electric drill, then frozen. The buckets - which were really fucking heavy -  would be dragged back out of the the deep freeze, and the mix would be scooped out using icecream scoops and cooked dozens at a time then left in the prover to stay moist. It was both disgusting and wonderful and a total guilty pleasure, even once you’d seen them being made.

The asshole boss sold the café and was replaced by a douchebag boss, and some time after I left he realised that hospitality is way harder than it looks and flicked the café on to someone else, and over the courseof a couple of name changes the café went from being freaky, 90s and Portlandia-ish, open all night, manned by weirdos and blaring inappropriate music at 7am, to being millennial, expensive and shiny and much like everything else on offer. The PCMs changed /downsized / lost their mojo. Then the café was earthquaked and presumably(?) mojo muffins are no more. (Incidentally, many years on, asshole boss came into my place of retail-work and walked out with - i.e. shoplifted - a bunch of stock! Once a slimy prick, always a slimy prick.)

I have no idea what the actual recipe was, partly because it was PROPRIETARY INFORMATION and a bit of a secret, and partly because I don’t know what ‘two boxes of pumpkin, the blue mug full of cinnamon and twelve scoops of sugar’ translates to in terms of cups and grams. This has many more ingredients than the original because that’s how it worked out. They are not quite the same but close enough for them to be siblings with a very strong family resemblance. Feel free to play around and let me know if you make any great improvements.

This recipe is big and makes 12 café sized muffins (or 18 normal sized ones), but will half easily if you want something that’s a little less indulgent. If you don’t like pumpkin, or can be fucked cooking, cooling, mashing and measuring it, you can switch it out for 4 mashed bananas.

Top tip – cook up some pumpkin when you’re roasting it or making soup, and stick it in pre-measured increments in zip lock freezer bags. Look at you being all domestic god-like.

Totally not proprietary pumpkin and chocolate muffins 
  • 1 C of sugars of your choosing (I use a mix of brown and raw)
  • 170g butter
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1 pottle / 150ml yoghurt (or similar dairy – sour cream, crème fraiche)
  • 2c cooked butternut squash (or similar), mashed or pureed
  • 3c plain flour
  • 1c wholemeal flour (for texture, not health)
  • 2t baking powder
  • 2t baking soda
  • 2 T cinnamon (yes, tablespoons - and if you're feeling bold you can add more still)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 200 – 300g dark chocolate (e.g. a block of Whittaker’s dark) smashed into irregular chunks

1) In a microwave-safe jug or a stovetop pan, melt the butter and the sugar together, then let them cool slightly. Add the pumpkin and the yoghurt, stir it together. Gloopy!

2) Whisk up your eggs – ours came from our newly acquired ex-battery hens. 

Hey, ladies! They now have the run of the garden. They also lay their eggs in swappa crates - it’s pretty cute.  Not so cute was when one escaped and had to be chased down the road.

Add the whisked eggs to the rest of the wet mix and give it a good whisk.

3) In a big bowl, combine your dry ingredients. I also added a big pinch of white pepper because it seemed like a good idea.

I measured them with these lovely matroyshka doll measuring cups gifted to me by fellow cake enthusiast Dr Handsome B. Wonderful Esq

4) Add the chocolate, which you totally haven't been picking at, to the dry, then pour in the wet, because that’s how it’s done.

Mix it up efficiently. I use my hands and latex gloves because they are the business and it's a good way to get everything blended without overmixing. It’s quite a thick batter, so you may need to add a splash of milk to loosen it up. 

5) Squelch it into the muffin pan. Pile it high!

6) Bake for 25 – 30 mins on 180°C or until done. Easy peasy.

Serve hot with butter because #YOLO (and then you die of cardiovascular disease at 48).


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