butternut squash muffins

Many friends and family have left me messages to see if I’m alright in the Maine woods during the storm. I’m happy to report that we’re doing more than fine up here. In fact, we’re ecstatic about the snow as we’ve been closed for the past week due to a lack of the white fluffy stuff. Our electricity is solar powered or propane generated and we have an entire basement full of food- so we’re merrily chugging along! It’s been a quiet week here, and today the snow makes it seem even more so.IMG_1774

It was the perfect opportunity for me to try out my new snowshoes. I walked in one direction for an hour, and when I turned around I could see how my tracks had started to be filled in with the falling snow. Save for the trail of a hurried vole leading to then vanishing by a tree, my tracks were the only ones to be seen. The animals that might otherwise be active on winter’s day seem to be lying dormant, which is what I’ve been doing all afternoon. I’m on my fourth cup of tea.IMG_1704

I hope the same can be said for you, that you are all safe in your homes. In the case that you’re snowed in and you need something to look forward to tomorrow morning, may I suggest these butternut squash muffins; although you really don’t need an excuse to bake these.IMG_1703

Muffins are serious business in my book. Back in Pittsburgh, I could tell you the proximity of the nearest muffin worthy of your attention. I stand firmly that muffins should not be an excuse to eat cake at breakfast. If you want to eat cake at breakfast, eat cake at breakfast- I’ve done it, too! But if I’m having a muffin, I want it to offer some nutrition. I want it to be barely sweet, with some fiber, and the ability to stand alone. Alas, muffins like these are hard to find, and living in the woods I’m reliant on filling my muffin needs. These easily fit the bill. The butternut squash is inherently sweet, and the dried raisins and cranberries complement the aromatic spices quite nicely. These are as good for breakfast sitting warm and snug inside while watching the snow fall, as they are for a substantial snack to enjoy outside while exploring the wintery world around us.IMG_1741

butternut squash muffins
Adapted from Baking: From my home to yours, by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 8-12 muffins, depending on how big you’d like them

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch of allspice
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup butternut squash puree*
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup dark raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400ºF. Grease or line with paper cups the wells in a regular-size muffin pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Using stand mixer with a paddle attachment, an electric mixer beat the butter at medium speed, or beat by hand using a wooden spoon, until soft. Add the brown sugar and continue to beat until light and smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix until incorporated. On low, mix in the butternut squash and the buttermilk. At this point, if using either a stand or electric mixer, I’d recommend switching to a plastic spatula to avoid over mixing in the following step. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, mixing until just before they would disappear. Add the raisins and cranberries and finish mixing until just combined. Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups (or for larger muffins like mine, only make 8). Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffin pan on a rack for about 5 minutes, and then remove muffins from pan to finish cooling on the rack.

*To make puree: leaving the rind on, halve a small to medium squash and remove the seeds. Roast in the oven at 425ºF for about an hour. Once the squash has cooled, scrape out the flesh and puree in a blender or food processor- or mash really, really, really well! You also could use canned unsweetened pumpkin; however, if you do this, I’d suggest adding 1/4 cup of white sugar in with the brown to make up for the loss of sweetness you’ll get switching from butternut squash to pumpkin.