Yay! It’s pumpkin season!
Although, I’m not exactly sure when pumpkin season officially begins, because, in our house, pumpkin has no season. It’s seasonless. Fall, winter, spring and summer, we love pumpkin everything! In fact, I buy canned pumpkin by the case. Remember a few years back when there was a pumpkin shortage? Horrors! What? No pie? No pancakes? Whatever will we DO? I only buy organic canned pumpkin which was even harder to find and when I did, it was exorbitantly expensive. Enter cases of organic pumpkin purchased online. And I’ve been buying it that way ever since. So, let’s just say if we need to take refuge in a bunker, I’ll bring the canned pumpkin!
You would think with all this pumpkin madness going on in our house, I might have a “go to” pumpkin muffin recipe ready to just pull out of my arsenal and share. But no. Not so. This one took a few tries before I got it right where I wanted it. I did get frustrated and gave away a lot of good, but not great, muffins on the path to success. It’s just a muffin after all. I expected to nail it on the first or second try, but not this time.
They were all good…but some were too dry and some too spicy. Some had more fat in them than I wanted for this recipe or more sugar than was needed. Spices had to be balanced and not too strong. After three valiant tries, I thought, “Really? A basic muffin recipe is going to stump me today?” I almost put this one aside for another time, but I was determined to figure it out.
And I just had to figure it out because I had come up with an amazing topping idea that I just had to get out of my system, and I needed something great to go underneath it. And because of the aforementioned topping, the muffin structure had to hold up to the weight of it and not sink in the middle.
Let me tell you about that topping. It’s perfect. This delicious, moist, nicely spiced pumpkin muffin is topped with a delicate swirl of sweetened cream cheese and Nutella. It’s so simple, but oh so amazing, on top of this muffin. And it’s beautiful too (or maybe even gorgeous!) in a yin yang perfectly balanced kind of way. The topping adds a creamy chocolaty, cheesecakey sweetness to the just sweet enough muffin.
It’s a “baked on” topping. That’s right. Just swirl the toppings on and throw them in the oven. The Nutella and cream cheese become one with the muffin while they bake. The muffins emerge from the oven all dressed up and ready to go. The cream cheese undergoes a bit of transformation in the oven almost getting a toasted marshmallow kind of texture yet with none of the stickiness.
Pumpkin Muffins with Nutella Cream Cheese Swirl. This is a muffin that will tempt you for seconds. Just one more bite. Wait, let’s see, do I like the cream cheese side or the Nutella side? Or, does the part where it’s swirled taste best? Like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. Hmm. Better try another then. Pumpkin, cream cheese and chocolate. You know you want it.
Pumpkin Muffins with Nutella Cream Cheese Swirl
- For the muffins:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg I used freshly ground
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup canned pureed pumpkin not pumpkin pie filling
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons evaporated milk
- 6 Tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
- For the topping:
- 4 ounces cream cheese I used Neufchatel
- 4 Tablespoons sugar
- 4 Tablespoons Nutella
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Set aside.
- In another medium bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until combined, then whisk in pumpkin, evaporated milk and vegetable oil.
- Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just combined and flour has been fully incorporated into the batter. Do not over mix or you will risk tough muffins.
- Scoop batter evenly into the muffin cups. I used a heaping ¼ cup scoop and filled all the cups almost to the top. You should still see some of the paper along the edges as you will need to leave room for the topping to be added.
- In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to combine cream cheese and sugar. You may want to stir the cream cheese and sugar together a bit with a spoon before using the mixer so that you don’t end up with sugar flying out of the bowl. Or, save some dishes and just mix it with a spoon. Either way, mix until the sugar is completely dissolved into the cream cheese and the mixture is soft and creamy.
- Using a measuring teaspoon, scoop a heaping spoonful of the cream cheese mixture onto one side of each muffin. You may have a bit of cream cheese mixture left over. (Leftovers are great on fruit!)
- Using a clean measuring teaspoon, scoop heaping spoonfuls of Nutella onto the other side of each muffin. (I gave a full measurement for this, but only to make sure you have enough in your jar of Nutella. I scraped directly from the jar.)
- Now, using a toothpick, a skewer or the point of a sharp knife, place the tip into one of the toppings and drag it in a circular motion running the tip through the chocolate and cream cheese until swirled to your liking.
- Bake at 400 degrees F. for 5 minutes on the middle rack. After 5 minutes, keeping oven door closed, adjust temperature down to 375 degrees F. and bake for an additional 10-13 minutes. Muffins should be nicely domed, the cream cheese getting just the faintest bit of golden edges and a toothpick stuck in the middle should come out with a few moist crumbs.
*Short cut solution: replace spices (cinnamon through cloves) with 2 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
*Do not overbake. Many good recipes are thrown out for being too dry when they were simply overbaked. It only takes 2-3 minutes to go from perfection to not so great. Check your muffins at the shortest bake time, or even before, if you know your oven runs hot.
*Due to the cream cheese topping, muffins should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Then, warm the muffins for 10 seconds in the microwave to take off the chill from the refrigerator before eating. Still delicious; in fact, I thought the muffins were even better on day 2.
Recipe from The Merchant Baker Copyright © 2014