Tuesday, October 21, 2008

TWD: Pumpkin Muffins


There are certain things that I am always afraid to confess to people, for fear that they will start to think less of me. For example: "I made a special trip to six different stores in search of the People issue with Brangelina's newborn twins on the cover." And: "No matter what is going on in the world, I always read Dear Abby first when I open a newspaper." And finally: "my favorite pumpkin muffins in the world come from a bag."

I know that Dorie says that Sarabeth Levine's pumpkin muffins "ought to be the gold standard for all pumpkin muffins in the world," but for me, Chuck Williams has long set the gold standard for pumpkin muffins. I adore the Williams Sonoma pumpkin muffins, have made them for years, and have felt absolutely no need whatsoever for another pumpkin muffin in my life. I've always been a one pumpkin muffin kind of girl.

But I'm a loyal TWDer, so of course I decided to give Dorie's a try. I had a lot going on the day I made these muffins, and my kitchen was a wreck. I had made stock the night before to use in some Butternut Squash Risotto, and was skimming the stock and transferring some of it to baggies to freeze. When that got boring, I'd measure out some dry ingredients for the pumpkin muffins. Suddenly, I realized that one of my baggies had fallen over, and stock had spilled out onto the counter, soaking the bottom of a bag of flour. I dumped the flour into a large mixing bowl so that I would not end up with chicken stock-infused flour, and set the bowl on the opposite side of the counter so that I would not get it confused with the pumpkin muffin ingredients. Then I went to do some laundry, or watch a couple of downs of the Virginia game, or have a tea party with my three year old, or something, and came back to mix up the pumpkin muffins. When the batter was done, it seemed . . . odd. Sort of, what was it? -- stretchy. Rubbery. The texture was so familiar to me -- that shininess, that boingy-ness. I scooped a little up with my finger and knew right away -- it felt exactly like:




Silly Putty!!! There was no question in my mind that if I pressed the batter against the Sunday comics, I'd end up with the perfect image of Funky Winkerbean. (Am I dating myself here?)

BOING!



I tasted my batter and found it to be rather flavorless. I could taste the pumpkin, but couldn't really pick up the spices. Dorie said that they would be "gentle," though. The woman knows what she's doing, who am I to question her? Surely this bland orange silly putty would bake up into something just grand. I filled up my muffin tin and popped those bad boys in the oven. I then started cleaning up my kitchen and was horrified to discover:



the bowl containing all of my dry pumpkin muffin ingredients. You saw that coming from a mile away, didn't you? Oh yes, I had mixed up the batter with approximately TWO THIRDS OF A BAG OF STRAIGHT FLOUR, not my pumpkin spice flour mixture. It was only the presence of six impressionable little ears that stopped me from cutting loose with the most elaborate string of rhyming profanity since the release of the last Snoop Dogg record. I grabbed the muffins out of the oven, dumped them in the trash, slammed the tin onto the countertop, grabbed my keys, and told David that I was leaving to go buy more eggs. David called after me as I stormed downstairs to the garage: "do you think that maybe you need to take a little break from all this baking?"

Later that night I tried again on the dough -- it was really quick since I had already mixed up all of the dry ingredients! -- and the batter definitely looked and tasted like something that would become a really great pumpkin muffin, rather than a really great clay animal.



The muffins themselves? They were beautiful, and delicious:



The spices WERE subtle, but they worked so well together. The texture was perfect -- light and moist, with just the right amount of "crumble." The raisins and the nuts completed the package. These are particularly glorious when eaten warm with a little butter.

I now understand that the difference between my now-dethroned Williams-Sonoma pumpkin muffins and Dorie's pumpkin muffins is like the difference between Epcot Center France and real France. Epcot Center France is lovely, it looks a little like what you would imagine France to look like, people speak French and you can get a great croissant. But it ain't France. Likewise, the Williams Sonoma muffins are a bit of a caricature of what you think a pumpkin muffin should be: they are a pleasant orange color, and their pumpkin spice flavor nearly knocks you out. It has to, if it is to smell enticing enough when baking to lure you into the store, where you will proceed to purchase a pumpkin cakelet pan and an orange silicone spatula, when you were ONLY at the mall in the first place -- pinkie swear! -- to get jeans at Old Navy for your six year old.

I love Epcot Center, don't get me wrong. And I'll still eagerly accept the clerk's offer of a sample when I stroll into Williams-Sonoma in October (I might even take two). But from now on, when I want a real pumpkin muffin, I'm making Dorie's. In fact, I've already made these four times -- the silly putty, a batch for a family trip, another batch for family trip because we ate too many of the first trip batch before leaving on trip, and again just because we love them so. So thank you, Kelly of Sounding my Barbaric Gulp , for choosing a muffin that is sure to ring in the fall for my family for many years to come!

And I'll close with a gratuitous picture of two of my pumpkins in their pumpkin shirts with the pumpkin muffins (because I am all about taking a theme one step too far):

43 comments:

Engineer Baker said...

That story is just too funny. I'm amazed that the batter could even move with that much flour in it! Your second batch looks like it turned out much better though :)

Matt said...

Oh, I could see it coming only because it's like a page of my life. Everything from driving store to store in search of a magazine to the leaving out of crucial ingredients to the yet-another-grocery store run to replace wasted ingredients...

Great analogy about Epcot France...great pictures, too!

Andrea said...

Once again you have me laughing at the computer screen! Too funny about your silly putty batter! I'm so happy you and your family found a new fall treat, these were such a hit here too, I was really surprised! Loved the Epcot/France comparison! We will be making them all the time I'm sure. I'm glad you like my frivolous kitchen purchases. I'm just thankful I have enough storage space to keep everything hidden and can only take out one unnecessary item at a time to share on my blog :) that way no one else has to know. I love the picture of you children in their pumpkin shirts, very sweet.

Marthe said...

Hahah, well your story brightened up my dau. I'm gald you succeeded in making them in the en and actually loved tham!

Laura said...

Too funny Cathy! I laughed out loud when I got to the Snoop Dogg reference (not every food blogger can work that in!). So glad the second batch turned out well - your kids are adorable (and I love the pumpkin theme!)

Pamela said...

Great post, Cathy! Yeah, I did see that coming from a mile away, but it was quite enjoyable on my end. Glad you have a new favorite!

lusciousfood.com said...

wowie - what a wonderful post!! it's always nice to be surprised and find something better than your current favorite. your kids are so adorable, the picture made me smile and feel nostalgic.

Prudy said...

Cathy, Cathy, Cathy:
I just can't get enough of your posts. First of all, I have the same scenario so often, making a kajillion things in my kitchen, but I'm also almost always talking on the phone. I end up ruining everything and I consider it the highest of idnignities when I have to head back to the store. And yet I do. I love that your husband shouted out to you on your way out. I've had the same comment whispered to me at midnight, 5 AM and 5 PM. The muffins look lovely. Although I've had a sample at WS and they always taste good too. Your kids are sooo cute in their Halloween T shirts. Can I borrow them for a week and take them to Epcot France? I promise to bring them back in good condition. Think of all the baking you could get done.:)

Jamie said...

Now that is entertainment! I need to try those WS muffins! Your second batch looks great though!

Peggy said...

I'm still waiting for you to make one recipe that doesn't involve disaster of some sort! :) Your muffins look great and I love the picture you created with them. Thanks for your sweet comment about my blog. :)

Mary Ann said...

How entertaining! Too bad you had to throw away some of your ingredients, but I am glad that you realize what happened and made them again. These pumpkin muffins are so yummy! Thanks for making me laugh!
p.s. did you have to bring up the risotto? Now I want to eat it again!

Flourchild said...

What a great blog to start my day with..you always make me smile. I love your silly putty statement!

Ya..I think I like my tried and true pumpkin bread/muffin recipe. Im going to stick with it!

Your kids are very cute and I love the pumpkin shirts!

Maria said...

You are too funny! I love it! I haven't tried the WS muffins. I will have to pick up a mix for my lazy baking days!! I love the pumpkin shirts too. Your kids are adorable!

Di said...

Thanks for the laughs, Cathy. I needed that this morning. I love the picture of your kiddos in their pumpkin shirts. =)

Anne said...

Your kiddos look adorable in their pumpkin shirts and I can totally sympathize with your experience with these muffins! And I think you and I must be married to the same non-chocolate eating man, since mine seems to say exactly the same things as yours! :)

Great photos and nice job Cathy!

Amanda said...

Hilarious as always. I love that you've already made these four times. I also love David's comment about taking a break. I've slammed the door many times on my way out of the house to the grocery store to pick up one item. :-) I am really amazed at your food staging!!

Candy said...

Glad it all worked out. My dishwasher broke in the middle of all my baking...YUCK!

Audrey said...

Funky Winkerbean!!! I'm cracking up...I was a hall monitor in junior high school, and he was our geeky hero. Your pumpkins are sweet!

SUGAR BETTY said...

What a nice blog entry! The analogies were a great touch! I am a huge William Sonoma fan too. I modified Dorie's recipe by adding a lot more spices though. I don't like subtle!

pinkstripes said...

Yeah, I get in trouble when I try to do too many things at once in the kitchen. I'm not a multi-tasker.

Your second attempt muffins look great! How did the butternut squash risotto turn out? It sounds delicious.

Natashya said...

I am starting to get a mental image of you as a Lucy Ricardo in the kitchen! This is a couple of baking mishaps in a row. :)
At least the structure of the kitchen was not in danger, and everything worked out in the end.
Love the outdoor shots - fall is beautiful.

Melissa said...

I love your comparison to Epcot - very funny! Glad you enjoyed the muffins.

kim said...

haha! oh, man. the frustrating things do end up making funny blog posts ;) nice recovery!! the final muffins look great.

natalia said...

I'm sorry! it sounded like me: in the worst moment the worst happens...I'm glad you didn't give up because they came out very well !

Alwayzbakin said...

You are so funny! Your muffins look great, but now I must try the Williams Sonoma kind. Your kids are adorable, too!

Kayte said...

OMW, I have never visited your site before, and I will be back...I am still laughing through this whole process of making these muffins. SO funny...you meant us to laugh, right? Because I would be the first to feel really badly about laughing if you didn't want us to laugh. Nah...this was too funny to even worry about that! Oh, and by the way, your muffins look great...all of them, the shirtless ones and the ones with shirts! Thanks for sharing!

Kayte said...

OMW, I have never visited your site before, and I will be back...I am still laughing through this whole process of making these muffins. SO funny...you meant us to laugh, right? Because I would be the first to feel really badly about laughing if you didn't want us to laugh. Nah...this was too funny to even worry about that! Oh, and by the way, your muffins look great...all of them, the shirtless ones and the ones with shirts! Thanks for sharing!

Jess said...

Like everyone else, I'm laughing at your post (or with it...). Glad you enjoyed the muffins after all the trials and tribulations of making them. No more $10 mixes from WS! Although have you tried their malted waffle mix? Insanely good.

Karen said...

OMG! You are hilarious and you sound like someone I would enjoy baking with! :) I'm glad your real muffins turned out better than the silly putty ones!

Jules Someone said...

Hehehehe. How amazing that you persevered and made them AGAIN. And all of your pumpkins are beautiful.

BAKE-EN said...

Great post, you cracked me up! It sounds like you were doing way too many things at once, but who doesn't do that! I'm glad you liked them with the right dry ingredients :)

Sherry Trifle - Lovely Cats said...

A delightful blog! My goodness, the "Silly Putty" muffins must have been very frustrating. I'm pleased you love the Dorie muffins - I do as well.

CB said...

Oh no! You poor thing. I give you props for making it again after your silly putty pumpkin batter episode. I am not sure I would have had the same ambition. Glad you and the family enjoyed the muffins. PS. Your little "muffins" are adorable :)
Clara @ iheartfood4thought

AmyRuth said...

Cathy, i laughed out loud, LOL, as I read your story. What? I thought those things only happened to me. Thanks for the entertainment and I am so glad you found the real pumpkin muffins to your liking.
AmyRuth

Your real live pumpkins are very cute. Enjoy! They grow just like weeds.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Cathy, I love the way you write! You have a way with words! I love your gut honesty!! So WS is now dethroned? Wow, I'll have to try those Dorie muffins! Your kids are adorable!

n.o.e said...

Oh, I hope David isn't right. You don't need a break from baking, do you? Cause your posts are a TWD bright spot. I mean who else makes pumpkin silly putty?

I'm glad you all liked these. I guess I'm not sophisticated enough to appreciate their gentle charms - give me the "caricature" flavors!

btw, Krusteaz makes a pretty good pumpkin bread mix, for those lazy days. I found it at Costco, but Publix probably carries it also.
Nancy

SiHaN said...

hoho.. i love the comparison you made there. That's really funnie. Aren't you glad you tried it out in the end?

They look so perfect too!

Kimberly said...

Haaaaa! I love to read your entries! I can't wait to try some of the variations people posted on the TWD site especially choc chips only amd cranberries and white choc chips.

What evil W-S genius dreamed up the whimsical gravy boat "that children remember long after they are grown"?? They knew they'd get guilt stricken mothers snapping them up in droves to soothe the fears that without gravy boats of whimsy their children would surely be scarred forever. I am 100% sure I would fall for that. I don't even have kids yet and I'm already guilt stricken considering all the ways I could screw them up...

Marthe said...

OMG, three typos in one comment... What was I thinking!! ;)
My muffin top is already too far advanced to be ignored.... :)

Teanna said...

These top the Williams and Sonoma pumpkin muffins!? I HAVE To try these! And yours look phenomenal!! LOVE your posts .. you are too funny!!

Steph said...

Something always happens when you bake, but I'm glad you always manage to pull through in the end and bake something yummy!! Your posts are hilarious to read!!

Kelly D said...

The picture of your cuties is never going too far. After the initial go round, at least you ended up with a satisfactory result. Maybe I was meant for Epcot. I wanted to be knocked out by the pumpkin flavor...

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