What’s better in chilly weather than a delicious, warm, and wholesome treat? With eggs, nuts, winter squash, a small amount of sugar, and a gluten-free flour mix that contains chickpeas, these muffins pack protein and vitamins. Make them to accompany your morning brew or as part of a holiday brunch spread. Not a bad way to start the day!
What makes these muffins special is the sweet, orange-gold squash that’s baked-in. You can use canned pumpkin, which works just fine, or you can roast your own squash or sweet potatoes and make a puree.
One advantage to roasting your own is the toasty, caramel smell it gives your kitchen. I used roasted kabocha squash, a winter squash variety with rich flesh, lots of flavor, and low water content. When your roasted squash is fork-tender, let it cool, then scoop out the flesh and puree it in the food processor (Tip: You can make it a day ahead and store in in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake the muffins).
These muffins have a surprisingly delicate crumb, which you might not expect from a gluten-free pastry, and they’re rich and moist from the puree. I found that the muffins are good stored at room temperature for a couple of days. If you can’t eat them that quickly, freeze them, and when you’re ready to eat, defrost and pop a few in the oven or toaster oven to warm them up.
If you love pumpkin pie spice, this is a great chance to use it! The recipe calls for a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice, but you can make your own using a combo of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice (see how below).
I also added turmeric to the recipe to boost the muffins’ golden color, but you can’t detect the taste. Turmeric, known for its use in Indian and Persian cuisine, is now recognized for all kinds of health benefits, so this is one more way to sneak it into your diet.
The muffins are finished with a simple crumb topping of ground walnuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon. If you want to avoid nuts, substitute ground pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
Perfect Squash Muffins
Makes 1 dozen muffins
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons walnuts, coarsely ground
1 tsp cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 350F, and line a muffin tin with paper muffin liners.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, turmeric, salt, and baking powder, and set aside.
3. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the pumpkin puree, eggs, and vanilla, and mix to incorporate. Add the flour mixture in two batches, and mix just until it’s no longer visible. Fold in 1/2 cup of the walnuts.
4. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins. Mix together the remaining 3 tablespoons of walnuts, the two tablespoons of brown sugar, and the teaspoon of cinnamon, and sprinkle the mixture on top of the muffins.
5. Bake the muffins for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
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Louisa Shafia is the author of The New Persian Kitchen, a book of healthy Mediterranean and Silk Road-inspired recipes, and Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life, a collection of seasonal recipes and eco-friendly kitchen tips. See Louisa’s cooking videos and her schedule of upcoming events at http://lucidfood.com/.