21 October 2012

obsession; or why even I'm making pumpkin gingerbread cupcakes

today, there is flour on my shoes & they are grey moccasin ankle boots. I've succumbed to the autumnal obsession with pumpkin. Why, when it is autumn, must everything be pumpkin flavored? coffee. soup. pie. coffee. cake. bread. coffee. Everything is pumpkin flavored. I cannot complain too much, because I do love pumpkin pie, but there are lines to be drawn. and those lines ought immediately be jumped right over for a good idea.

For me, autumn means a slow down at work, a bit more time to spend with friends, a return to sweaters and scarves, and the ability to drink fresh apple cider. It is a good time, the hills are painted with gold, bronze, ochre, fuschia, and vermillion. I can again curl up with my dog and a good book, some rich red wine and while the night away living in someone else's imagination. Autumn also means I can add cinnamon and cloves and other warm spices to everything without hearing complaints.

Autumn also means everyone becomes obsessed with pumpkin. The day that worldwide coffee chain introduces a pumpkin spice latte, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are covered in exclamation points falling as prolifically as the leaves. I think most squashes are underused, I really do, but we don't have to go crazy over pumpkin and put it in our coffee and cover our homes with teeny tiny orange decorations.

Still, I've been thinking of variations of gingerbread. Gingerbread because autumn also makes me think of molasses. Molasses cookies, molasses in applesauce, molasses in pumpkin pie, and molasses in gingerbread. My grandmother has a lovely gingerbread recipe {& the post is one of my favorite style photo spreads, too}, but I thought it would be nice to tweak it a bit. I ended up part of the autumnal obsession with cupcakes and pumpkin and cream cheese icing.

This is one of the very few instances where I will suggest canned and store bought ingredients. Canned pumpkin, so long as it is not canned pumpkin pie filling, works just as well as homemade and is ten times easier. As for cream cheese icing, I've just always used a store bought can for no apparent reason. Please make it at home if you'd like, but I won't actually judge you if you just buy a tub.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Cupcakes
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch salt
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
1 {15 oz} can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1/3 cup wheat flour
1 and 1/4 cup white flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup boiling water

cream together the sugar, shortening, and salt, then add the egg, then the molasses, and finally the pumpkin. Mix well, then add the flour (you're looking for 1 and 1/2 cups flour total. I like to put the wheat flour in a half cup, fill with white flour, then add the whole cup of white flour. Feel free to use entirely white flour), spices and baking soda. Mix together, then add half the boiling water. Mix to combine, then continue to add water until the batter is a very thick cake batter consistency. You may need a bit more or less water, depending on the humidity in your kitchen and the pumpkin.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then pour small ladlefuls of batter into greased and lined muffin/cupcake tins. The batter should fill the papers no more than 2/3 to 3/4 full. I usually ended up with around 20 cupcakes, depending on how full I filled the tins. Bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool completely on cooling racks, then ice.

For this cupcake, I used a butter knife to apply the icing for a more rustic look. For something both tasty and more fancy, swirl 2 tablespoons of dark molasses into the cream cheese icing and pipe it onto the cupcakes.

"Be well. Do good work. Keep in touch." - Garrison Keillor

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