Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins

Whether you have woken up on the wrong side of the bed, or with energetic purpose and cheer, these savory muffins will fill you with joy. They are spiced with cayenne and a healthy amount of black pepper that plays against the sharp cheddar in a way that makes me want to make them every weekend. The extra cheddar baked on top was so good that I had to restrain myself from eating the tops off of the whole dozen. These would be amazing as part of a Thanksgiving brunch spread.

from: Baked Explorations
yield: 12 muffins

1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin puree
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/4 cups (about 4 ounces) grated sharp cheddar
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray each cup of a standard 12-cup muffin pan with a little bit of vegetable spray and use a paper towel to spread the oil evenly along the bottom and up the sides of each cup.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and sour cream. Add the eggs and butter and whisk until combined.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and brown sugar. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well, and fold until just combined. Fold in three-quarters of the cheese.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups (a spring loaded ice cream scoop comes in handy here). Sprinkle the remaining cheddar and the pumpkin seeds on top of the muffins. Bake them for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the muffin pan cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out the muffins. Serve them warm.

Muffins taste best when eaten fresh, but they can be made ahead of time and reheated in a 200-degree oven.

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