It finally got cool in Dallas, and even though it’s still mid September, pumpkin season is calling me. One of my local markets finally started stocking sugar pumpkins (I didn’t get any planted in time in my garden this year), so I stocked up yesterday and made some puree. And since I have a friend from Brazil visiting, of course, I had to make something pumpkin for breakfast this morning! I dragged out an old boring pumpkin muffin recipe, and it wasn’t inspiring me. But my friend, Floh, had brought me some guava paste from Brazil, and it was starting at me from the countertop. In Brazil, they make these little sweet white breads stuffed with guava paste and a chewy white farmer’s cheese, and it’s DIVINE. So I though, “Why not stuff these pumpkin muffins with cream cheese and guava paste?” Of course, they turned out to be divine.
Chances are, you don’t have any guava paste in your pantry. And it’s not easy to find, unless you have a Latin American market nearby. But you can usually find guava jelly in your grocery store, and it substitutes nicely. Failing that, ANY jam would be tasty in these muffins, or perhaps a slice of stonefruit like peach or apricot, or even a cherry. The muffin base isn’t overly pumpkiny or overly sweet…these are brilliant for breakfast. If you’re going to serve them as a sweet snack or dessert, you’ll probably want to make some cream cheese frosting for them.
1 8-oz block of cream cheese
Cut the cream cheese into 24 pieces. I cut it in half, resulting in 2 smaller rectangles. I slice the short length of one rectangle into 3 sections, then slice across the sections 4 times, to make 12 cubes. Then repeat with the other half.
If you are using guava paste, this is also the time to cut the paste into 24 cubes, as well.
In a medium sized bowl, combine:
3 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
Stir until thoroughly combined. In a large bowl, combine:
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin (or fresh, see note at bottom)
1/2 cup buttermilk (substitute 1/4 cup yogurt or sour cream mixed with 1/4 cup milk, or 1/2 cup milk plus 1 tsp white vinegar)
1/2 cup canola oil (any oil is okay)
1/3 cup molasses (or dark cane syrup)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Whisk until completely combined. Then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and fold them gently together until no dry flour is visible. Prepare 2 12-cup muffin pans with paper cupcake liners. (If you don’t have them, butter or spray the muffins pans liberally…these muffins don’t have a huge amount of fat in them and they don’t like to come out of the pan.)
Place 1 liberal Tablespoon of batter into the bottom of each cup. I use a tiny ice cream scoop for this. If you don’t have the ice cream scoops with the squeezable handle that rakes the ice cream out of the scoop, GET THEM. Get the small size and the large size. I rarely use them for ice cream, but I use them ALL THE TIME for baking. They help ensure perfectly sized cookies and cupcakes/muffins.
On top of the batter, place about a teaspoon full of:
Guava paste, guava jam, or any fruit jam or slice of fruit
If using paste, gently press the paste down into the batter. On top of the guava, place the cream cheese you cubed up earlier. I like to smash it into a fairly flat disc so it doesn’t poke up through the top layer of muffin batter.
Then place another generous Tablespoon of batter on top of the guava and cream cheese. You may need to go back over the batter and press it down with your fingers a bit so that it’s even.
Place the pans into a preheated 400F oven on the center rack, and bake for 18 minutes. The toothpick or knife test does not work for these muffins, because they have gooey cheese and fruit on the inside. So you have to go by sight and instinct to make sure they’re done. The top should be nicely browned, and a bit firm when tapped.
Remove them from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes before eating. This recipe makes 24 muffins.
This is how to make pumpkin puree from scratch, instead of using canned pumpkin. It’s not really too hard.
Take a pumpkin, preferably the small “sugar pumpkin” or “pie pumpkin” variety, but any one will do, and cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits.
Place the pumpkin, cut side down, in a rimmed baking pan. Fill the pan with about 1/2 cup of water. Then bake in a 350F oven until the pumpkin is soft when you press on it with a wooden spoon. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes for a small sugar pumpkin to 90 minutes or longer for a big pumpkin.
Remove the pumpkin from the oven and let it cool. Then scrape out the flesh with a spoon, put it in your blender or food processor, and process until it’s smooth.
Your puree will probably be watery. To eliminate excess water, pour the puree onto a clean bath towel, fold the rest of the towel over the puree, and pat it down gently and let it sit for 5 minutes. The extra water will be drawn into the towel. Instead of trying to scrape the pumpkin off the towel, just use the towel to fold the puree over on top of itself a few times, then dump it into a big bowl. (See my pumpkin pie instructional video for an actual demonstration.)
Simple as that!