Fresh from four days in Seattle, I can tell you the city was both everything and nothing like I expected, the way most things we envision tend to be, the way you could also describe a certain pumpkin recipe I’d tried before I left.
I mean, I liked Seattle. But before I went, I envisioned thick forests, days of rain, majestic mountains, lots of coffee, something called a Space Needle—and, I don’t know, people wearing lots of flannel or North Face jackets. In fact, it was all of those things. Despite our trip’s unending sunshine, the effects of rain were all around us: in the canopies of green over city streets, the fall leaves scattered on street corners, the fresh and wet smell throughout beautiful Bainbridge Island. We saw mountain peaks off in the distance, we ate soup with a view of the Space Needle, we passed more Starbucks coffee shops than I could count.
Indeed, Seattle is Pikes Place Market and the smell of the sea and a need for a jacket everywhere you go. But it is also something else. It is a city, like any other city, filled with tall buildings, urban architecture, the familiar retail shops. It’s hilly, like San Francisco, with steep sidewalks leading up ascending street numbers. It’s a place that makes it easy to eat organic or local or vegan or gluten-free.
Seattle is a gorgeous farmers market, a crowded Friday morning, a great dinner at Delancey—the Neapolitan-style pizza place I (and every other Orangette lover) watched develop online and now can say I’ve dined at.
Seattle was and wasn’t what I thought it would be, and that was exactly right, which is precisely the story of these muffins.
See, just like you can have visions of a place you’ve never visited, you can have expectations of a recipe you’ve never tried.
And sometimes you bake something, say a cookie, expecting what a cookie recipe normally yields, be it a hard and crunchy biscuit you can dunk in tea, a large and cracked dessert speckled with powder sugar or a crumbly and mouthwatering morsel you can hold in your hand, but when you go to the kitchen, follow a recipe, make some adaptations and bake, you find surprise. What you’ve made aren’t the cookies of your imagination; they’re something else entirely—more like muffins, dense and fluffy, spreading and flattening into wide, round cakes on the baking sheet.
So you pour them into muffin molds as you embrace the reality of what is, accepting and appreciating it. And you realize pumpkin muffins are exactly right.
I guess these are the preconceptions and surprises that make up our lives—be they new cities or new recipes or new faces that become friends. They’re everywhere. They’re worth noticing. I just hope they always involve such good things to eat.
Seattle Recap (highlights)
Where we ate: Groceries and buffet from Whole Foods Market Westlake, 2210 Westlake Avenue, Seattle, WA, 98121 // Breakfast at BOKA, 1010 First Avenue // Dinner at Restaurant Zoe, 2137 Second Avenue // Snacks at Blackbird Bakery, 210 Winslow Way E, Bainbridge Island, WA // Organic Ice Cream from Parfait at the Queen Anne Farmers Market, W Crockett at Queen Anne // Pizza at Delancey, 1415 NW 70th Street // Breakfast at Fonte Cafe & Wine Bar, 5412 6th Ave South
Within Pike Place Market, 1501 Pike Place, Seattle, WA, 98101: Organic pluot-peach-strawberry smoothies from Tiny’s Organic// Soup from Pike Place Chowder // Bakery from Le Panier // Bakery from Cinnamon Works
Full photo album viewable on Flickr.
Loosely adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes about two dozen regular-sized muffins
You can top these with whatever you like, be it a thick cream cheese frosting or nothing, totally plain. I used some leftover homemade lemon whipped cream, just a simple blend of heavy whipping cream, lemon zest and a few teaspoons of organic sugar.
2 cups white spelt flour (or all-purpose)
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1.5 teaspoons sea salt
1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1.5 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 cups Sucanat (or brown sugar)
2 large eggs
15 ounces canned solid-pack pumpkin (I got mine at Trader Joe’s)
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and butter 24 muffin cups (or fit with paper). Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl; set aside.
Put butter and coconut oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add Sucanat and mix well on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low. Add pumpkin, milk and vanilla; mix until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture; mix until combined.
Pour or scoop batter into muffin molds, filling them about 1/2 to 3/4 full. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, keeping an eye on them along the way. Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.