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10/1/09 Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Muffins

I know fall officially begins with the equinox, but October just *feels* like fall. September is all about Indian summer afternoons and school starting, November is really getting seriously cold...October dwells between them, crisp and cool and crystalline. October is about crunching leaves underfoot and smelling woodsmoke from chimneys and picking out pumpkins.


In the States, I loved cooking pumpkiny foods. Pumpkin pies, of course, but also pumpkin breads, pumpkin muffins, even pumpkin soups. The taste of pumpkins is the taste of October.

Here in Morocco, there's no canned pumpkin. (OK, it might exist at Marjane, but since the nearest one takes a full day of travel each way to get to, I don't go to Marjane all that often.) Nor do they have the big, chubby orange vegetable (gourd? yeah, gourd), endemic to North America, that we all know and love from pumpkin patches and jack'o'lanterns. What they do have, though, is the taghsayat, also known as the gr3a (the former is Tam, the latter Arabic).

Taghsayat covers every variety of squash, from zucchinis to butternut squashes to these large, green or yellow round gourds that are shaped sort of like a cross between a butternut squash and a pumpkin, but which have orange meat on the inside that tastes just like pumpkin. It must be the Eurasian/North African cousin of the American pumpkin. For obvious reasons, I refer to it as pumpkin.

Last year, I made pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. It was the Very First Time I ever attempted to cook pumpkin without having a can in my hand. I was nervous, anxious, worried that I'd somehow botch the whole thing...but, with lots of help from my lovely sitemate Fatima, I managed to stew a stringy, pumpkiny mess that we successfully turned into three pumpkin pies. :) Victory! Yummy pumpkin goodness!

This year, having faced the fear of the unknown, I marched into Pumpkin Season with my chin up and my smile bright.

I found pumpkins (and sweet potatoes!! which I'll rhapsodize about another time) in the souq in SouqTown. Pumpkins have actually been in season for several weeks, but I've been running around so much lately that I couldn't take advantage of it till now. After all, it's October. Regardless of the growing and harvesting seasons, October is Pumpkin Time, right? Right.

So I bought half a kilo of pumpkin flesh in SouqTown a few days ago. I imagine they'd sell a whole pumpkin if you really begged for one, but generally, people just tell their buxodart (vegetable stand guy) how much they want, and he hacks off an appropriately-sized chunk of pumpkin. My half kilo - over a pound - constituted a small fraction of the whole giant gourd leaning against the buxodart's stand.

Then I brought it home to Berberville and inaugurated Pumpkin Cooking Season.

I poked around and until I found a pumpkin recipe I liked, and then I adapted it. Because one of the many, many lessons I've learned from my time in Morocco is that cooking is an art, as well as a science, and that improvisation and adaptation are the keys to freedom. :)

So here's *my* Pumpkin Spice Muffin Recipe, with thanks to hers.

1/2 kilo pumpkin (reduces to about 1 1/4 cup)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 very heaping tablespoon cinnamon
half a nutmeg, grated (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1 heaping teaspoon ginger
25 cloves, ground (about 1/2 teaspoon) (To crush cloves, pull the small round head off the hard stalk. The stalks feel like twigs, but the heads crush surprisingly easily - just pinch them between your fingers.)

  1. Cut rind off of pumpkin. Chop pumpkin flesh into 1" cubes and put into boiling water. When the pumpkin is completely tender, about 15 minutes, pour everything into a colander. Mash the flesh. (This part is a lot like making mashed potatoes. I used a fork, but if you have a potato masher, go nuts.) Leave the pumpkin in the colander for another half hour or so, to let as much moisture as possible drip out.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk 2 eggs.
  3. Add pumpkin mash and vegetable oil to eggs. Whisk together.
  4. Sift together dry ingredients.
  5. Add them to the pumpkin mixture, whisking steadily to keep the batter airy.
  6. Grease and flour muffin tins. (Or use muffin/cupcake cups.)
  7. Ladle pumpkin batter carefully into the tins; fill the cups ~2/3 full.
  8. Light the oven and keep an eye on them. Americans, try 30 minutes at a 350 degree oven. Moroccans, try 20 minutes on a low flame.
  9. The pumpkin muffins are done when they pull away from the edges of the pan, or when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  10. Serve the 18 Pumpkin Spice Muffins to loved ones, and listen for the mmmmm sound of pumpkin-inspired happiness. Alternatively, serve 12 to loved ones and eat the other six yourself. You deserve it. ;)
Total number of times pumpkin appears in this blog post: 42. ;)

PS: I also tried to roast the seeds, but left them in waaay too long and ended up with a sad charred mess. Note to self: Seeds only need a few minutes to roast.

1 comment:

  1. What a challenge you've given us. I just might try to cook starting with the pumpkin instead of canned pumpkin. Will let you know if I do.


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