Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins... a sweet surprise

Spicy pumpkin and sweet cream cheese frosting; one of the best combinations out there, but one I've done plenty of times before. Rather than baking a pumpkin loaf and smearing generous globs of cream cheese frosting on top (and all over the sides so it falls off and I get to scoop it into my mouth using every last one of my fingers), I wanted to take a new approach, and settled on what seems to be a recent craze- pumpkin muffins with a cream cheese filling. I know they're the same flavors as your regular old frosted pumpkin loaf, and not that big of a change, but something about the unexpected bite of sweet, creamy, slightly tangy cream cheese mixed with spicy, moist pumpkin-y goodness makes these Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins taste above and beyond what any loaf ever could.

Judging by photos of the original recipe, the cream cheese was supposed to be more of a solid hunk of filling in the center rather than melty, unevenly dispersed pockets of sweetness like mine were. This is probably, no definitely, due to my lack of freezing time before placing the filling in the muffin tins to be baked. Either way, it tasted great and I'm sure no different than the originals, except maybe in those you get bigger hunks of filling, which honestly, I don't think I'd like as much as little tastes here and there.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
makes 24 muffins

for the filling:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 c confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

for the muffins:
3 c all-purpose flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 large eggs
2 c sugar
2 c pumpkin puree
1 1/4 c vegetable oil
*original recipe called for a wider variety of spices, but I didn't have them. I don't think they're necessary and am happy with my cinnamon-nutmeg combo but feel free to add more as you please

for the topping:
1/2 c sugar
5 tbsp flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

To prepare filling, combine cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl and mix until well blended. Transfer mixture to a piece of plastic wrap, and shape into a log 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Smooth plastic wrap around filling, reinforce with a piece of aluminum foil, and transfer to freezer to chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.
*as previously mentioned, this is the part I skipped, freezing my filling for maybe 40 minutes. Instead of cutting it into slices and placing it in the muffin tins as the recipe later calls for, I just spooned in equal amounts of frosting per muffin. Totally up to you, freezing makes it an easier, less messy process, but I like the uneven distribution mine turned out to have.

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line or grease muffin pans. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda. In a separate, larger bowl, combine eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Slowly add in dry ingredients until just incorporated.

To make topping, combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add in butter and mix until coarse and crumbly.

Fill each muffin well with just enough batter to cover the bottom (1-2 tbsp). Slice (or spoon) log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces, placing in each individual muffin tin. Divide remaining batter among muffin cups, covering cream cheese filling completely. Sprinkle with topping.

Bake 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before serving. Be careful when removing your muffins from their tins! They are very delicate with the cream cheese centers, and a couple of mine split due to my removing them too roughly/not allowing them enough time to cool.

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