While my closet moves confidently into Fall, my palate is less gung-ho. I know that once I commit to squash, apples, and root vegetables, it’s no casual fling: I’m in for the long haul. Because we eat as locally and seasonally as possible, last winter was difficult. I grew tired of my favorite fall and early winter foods quickly, craving variety.
I’m better prepared this year, having canned and frozen many spring and summer fruits and vegetables. I’ll pull them out and incorporate them into meals when I’m less than inspired this winter. In fact, because we froze asparagus in May (and its shelf life is less than six months), we made an asparagus frittata this weekend. It felt a little strange to be eating asparagus in September, but because it tasted like we’d just bought a bunch at the farmers market, I was able to move past my unease quickly!
Today’s humidity aside, Brooklyn’s nights feel appropriately crisp. This weekend, in addition to buying zucchini and tomatoes, we bought apples and a butternut squash. I turned the butternut squash and a few of the apples into butternut squash muffins. These are equally appropriate for an afternoon snack (I’m eating one right now) or as breakfast.
When the smells of cinnamon, roasted squash, and stewed apples began to waft throughout our apartment, I admitted defeat. Goodbye corn. Goodbye peaches. After all, there’s a reason Fall is my favorite season. No other season activates all five of my senses so thoroughly, between the cool air, the crunchy leaves, the smells of freshly lit fireplaces and bonfires, the coziness of warm sweaters, and yes, the taste and smell of squash and apples. My resistance to Fall foods only lasted as long as it took to roast the butternut squash!
Butternut squash muffins sound stranger than they taste. The squash adds a denser taste to the accompanying applesauce and juice. After I added the 4 whipped egg whites, the batter felt and resembled airy chocolate mousse more than dense muffins. Michael Nischan’s recipe seems long and labor-intensive when written out, but if you approach the recipe methodically, it’s not the least bit stressful. Make your apple sauce, roast your squash, simmer some cider and juice, and combine the remaining ingredients!
Butternut Squash Muffins
Yields 12 muffins
Recipe Source: Homegrown: Pure and Simple
Time: 2 hours if you’re making your own applesauce; 1.5 hours if you’re not!
1 lb butternut squash
1 teaspoon sea salt
8 black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
4 cups apple juice or cider (or a mix!)
1 cup cane sugar
½ cup apple sauce (You probably have your favorite way of making apple sauce, but I’ll include his recipe in a future post)
¼ cup grapeseed oil
4 egg whites
2 cups spelt flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray your muffin tin with a vegetable oil spray or rub a bit of butter into the bottom of each compartment.
2. Toss the squash with a bit of sea salt and spread onto the baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the squash is cooked through and tender.
3. While the squash is cooking, combine the peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, and coriander over medium-high heat and heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and add the apple juice/cider. Return to the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the juice has reduced to a thick mixture. Pour the juice through a sieve to discard the spices.
*Note: my heated juice didn’t become as thick as the recipe indicated. I simply measured ¼ cup of the juice and saved the rest to drink later! The muffins came out fine!
4. Transfer the squash and juice to a food processor and process until smooth.
5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and egg yolks on high speed until the mixture is lighter and fluffier than when you started. Add the applesauce, oil, and butternut squash puree and mix until just blended. Transfer to a large bowl.
6. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and clean and dry the bowl. Add the egg whites to the bowl and beat on medium-high until very foamy.
7. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Add this to the batter and stir until mixed. Then fold in the egg whites until barely blended. White streaks are fine!
8. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each ¾ full. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
9. Let the muffins cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Turn them out of the tin and let cool completely. Enjoy!