I know it would be easy to think things are all happy and cookies around here. But between you and me, I have a hard time with this time of year, when the days darken an hour before I leave work and we gear up for the long (snowy! icy! bitter cold!) winter. There are those who would say, fairly maybe, that if you declare autumn your favorite set of months, you have to take it with all its flaws, as well as its gorgeous colors and crisp breezes, caramel apples and cider doughnuts, colorful gourds and adorable pumpkins. That you can’t be a fickle lover, using the season for what it gives you and wishing it away when the good things end.
When every work day I walk to my car in pitch-black darkness, when the weather reports threaten a snowfall, when I eat dinner and want nothing more than to curl up on the sofa with a soft blanket, I tell myself these are the small sacrifices. That, in exchange for dense golden forests and carved Jack-O-Lanterns, I give up a little daylight, a little warmth. That, because fall is so wonderful, winter has to follow. It’s the way of things. You can’t have everything you want or you’d be terribly spoiled, right? You can’t have just the beauties of fall year-round or you’d forget to appreciate them, yes?
I want to be mature about all this. I am trying, all right? I’ve been finding what I like about these darker days—sunny mornings, for example, or the fact that I usually wake up before my alarm. This almost-winter thing isn’t so bad. Plus, there is Thanksgiving on the horizon, and after that, Christmas. Meanwhile, I could use a hug, if not a plane ticket to someplace lovely where I can wait out the next few months. Of course, I’d also settle quite happily for a bite of something delicious. Maybe something pumpkin, as another reminder of fall’s virtues?
Still on the hunt for the perfect pumpkin recipe, I baked these muffins last night, taken from a Gourmet recipe from 2006. They’re not overpoweringly sweet, more savory in fact, with a moist, moist center and flecks of cinnamon and sugar on top. I wouldn’t say they’re THE recipe, but they’re a step in the right direction. They’re also a whisper in my ear that fall hasn’t left entirely and, that I must enjoy it while it lasts.
Adapted from Gourmet November 2006, as seen at Muffin Top
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 15-ounce can of pure pumpkin
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
1.25 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put liners in muffin cups of a 12-cup muffin pan.
Whisk together flour and baking powder in a small bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin-pie spice, 1.25 cups of sugar, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture until just combined, always with machine on lowest setting.
Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.
Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be just over 3/4 full), then spinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and a knife inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.