Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pumpkin Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

I love pumpkin. I love using it for sweet dishes (hello pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattes) but I also love using it for savory dishes (pumpkin risotto, pumpkin chili, pumpkin lasagna). Everyone forgets that pumpkin doesn't naturally taste like pumpkin pie, and its flavor profile (without lots of sugar and spice) is pretty similar to butternut squash. This recipe definitely falls under the sweet category, but it isn't as bad for you as most pumpkin baked goods.

Annie's Eats shared a pumpkin cream cheese muffin recipe a few years ago, and I've made them countless times. They are deliciously sweet and spicy, and have a surprising creamy center. However, they are not by any means healthy. Just last month she provided an updated, lightened-up version, and I immediately wanted to try it. She replaced the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour, subbed out some of the oil for applesauce, and cut back on the sugar. In the filling, she sweetened with honey instead of powdered sugar, and she added oats to the streusel topping for a bit of extra fiber. I used most of her changes, and made a few of my own. I never made the streusel topping in the past, so I skipped that this time as well.

I think that it still tastes just as yummy as the original! Now I feel better about eating one (or three) as a snack, dessert, or even as a quick breakfast.

Note: the original recipe is for 24 muffins. I don't like having that many on hand, so I halved the recipe and made 12. You can definitely double all of the amounts for 24 muffins.

Recipe: Pumpkin Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling
Adapted slightly from Annie's Eats
Yield: 12 muffins

4oz cream cheese (I use 1/3 less fat neufchatel), at room temperature
1 tbsp honey
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup splenda (you can use sugar instead if you would prefer)
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
3/8 cup (6 tbsp) unsweetened applesauce*

* I know this is a weird amount, it's just what happened when I halved the recipe. It is right between 1/4 and 1/2 cup. If you use the 6 packs of applesauce, it's 3/4 of one of the 4 oz cups. I just poured in one of the cups, without scraping all of the applesauce out. It worked just fine.

Put the cream cheese and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a pastry bag (or a plastic bag if you don't have one), and pipe out into 12 equal dollops onto a wax paper or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Put in the freezer until firm (at least 2 hours).

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a standard muffin pan with liners, or spray with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, add the flours, spices, salt, and baking soda. Whisk together. In a large bowl, add the eggs, sugar, splenda, pumpkin, oil and applesauce. Mix until combined. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture, and mix gently with a spoon or silicone spatula. You want it to be smooth, without any flour streaks, but you don't want to over-mix it.

Put 1-2 tbsp of batter into each muffin well, just enough to cover the bottom. Smooth it out, so the bottom is completely covered. Place the frozen cream cheese dollop on top. Divide the rest of the batter evenly over the cream cheese, smoothing the tops.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is set and springs back slightly when pushed. Let cool slightly before serving - the cream cheese filing will be hot!

To freeze - place muffins on a baking sheet in the freezer until frozen, 12-24 hours. Then pop into ziploc freezer bags, and label with the date. They should be good for up to 3 months, longer if they're individually wrapped in plastic wrap.

175 calories
7.9 g fat
23.9 g carbs
2.1 g fiber
4.1 g protein

Update: Here are some better pictures, that actually show the cream cheese filling!