Friday, October 16, 2015

Perfect Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

Wowza! I never use that word but it’s what blurted out after the first bite of these moist, spicy and healthy pumpkin muffins, a recipe from a reader. The recipe starts with 100% whole wheat flour and uses just 1/4 cup of oil – that's half the usual oil or butter for a dozen muffins. Plus the recipe somehow begs for adaptation: I made three variations – all easy, all with pantry ingredients, even one that’s a healthy makeover of the Starbucks Cream Cheese Pumpkin Muffin (pictured below).

And then I asked Kitchen Parade readers to try the muffins and play with their own variations. Just look at all the rave reviews!

Perfect Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins ♥, healthy pumpkin muffins that stay moist and fresh for days, spicy with great texture. Rave reviews.

"The liqueur-soaked currants made them sublime! " ~Rami
"... the Starbucks version of the muffins ... are delicious!" ~Judy
"This is a fantastic healthy muffin recipe!" ~Lindsay
"The recipe is already filed in our 'keepers' box and I've passed it on to friends." ~TBergen
"... they were delicious." ~Diane
"I agree, they are PERFECT! Is it the rest time? ... Even my husband, who is "iffy" at best about pumpkin, snarfed these down!" ~DLA
"... the pumpkin muffins are the BEST !!!!!!! I've ever made." ~Gloria BF
"... these were great! Some of the best I've come across." ~Anonymous

“Your Dorie Greenspan pumpkin muffin recipe looks pretty good, but I can do better.”

Them’s fightin’ words! I thought, when an e-mail arrived from Beth in San Francisco.

But I appreciated her confidence! No prevarication, no namby-pamby maybe-give-this- recipe-a-try-if-you-like introduction from her, thank you very much. The bold endorsement grabbed me as much as the ingredient list. Just a quarter cup of fat? One hundred percent whole wheat flour? All those fall spices, my favorites?

So Beth sold me, would she have sold you, too? Here’s what she wrote:

“I usually scoff at recipes calling for oil and water instead of buttermilk and, well, butter. But I do not scoff at recipes with stone-ground whole wheat flour that still turn out to be perfectly – and I mean perfectly – moist and utterly, utterly creamy and amazing in your mouth. They are easy but they always turn out. You can make them any size you like, they can be turned into cupcakes by adding cream cheese frosting. Take them to an event and everybody begs for the recipe.

“Give them a shot; they are one of the best recipes I have ever laid my hands on.” And so I did.

The first batch, by accident I used pumpkin pie filling instead of 100% pumpkin purée. Wowza. You know how recipes, including mine, always say, “Buy the pure pumpkin purée, not the pumpkin pie filling.”? Well, I’m here to tell you, pumpkin pie filling works just fine in this recipe, in fact, I might recommend the spice-forward and chewy-crusted muffins if you’re headed in the cream-cheese frosting cupcake direction.

I should have known. After all, didn’t Beth promise? “These muffins always work out.”

The second batch, I did a healthy makeover of the Starbucks Cream Cheese Pumpkin muffins that are oh-so-tempting looking but yikes, add up to 470 calories and get this! A total of 11 Weight Watchers points!

The third batch, I kept simple, topping only with a few pumpkin seeds. The fourth batch, I did four muffins of each variation! The fifth and sixth batches, I just enjoyed each and every muffin, straight out of the oven and even, get this, up to four and five days later, they’re still fresh!

So yes, I have a brand-new pumpkin muffin recipe – I've made pumpkin muffins four times in four weeks with the new recipe, versus one in four years with the old recipe, if that tells you anything. The new recipe has just half the calories, half the Weight Watchers points.

You heard it here, first: Wowza!!

ALANNA’s TIPS Beth recommends stone-ground 100% whole wheat flour for its coarseness. I’ve used the stone-ground flour and regular whole wheat flour and find them interchangeable. But if you’d like to seek out stone-ground whole wheat flour, check out the Bob’s Red Mill shelves at the grocery store, otherwise order straight from Bob’s Red Mill online. I have adapted Beth’s recipe a smidgen, halving the recipe for just 12 muffins, adding a little more salt, soaking the dried fruit in a liqueur for plumpness, a good thing in dried fruit. Beth’s original recipe for two dozen muffins called for 3 eggs. For a single dozen muffins, I’ve tested with 1-1/2 eggs and just a single egg. Both work! So what about that hour-long rest period? What’s it for and is it necessary? One batch, I baked a half dozen muffins straight off (no resting period) and the remaining muffins with a 30-minute rest period. The rest does make a difference in the texture of the muffins’ crust. After the rest, the muffins’ outside edges are chewier, also sweeter somehow, almost caramelized. So I’m sold, the rest converts very good pumpkin muffins into wowza-great pumpkin muffins. Don’t we all appreciate a good nap? Muffins too, it seems.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!


Hands-on time: 15 minutes to mix, 5 minutes to fill
Resting time (see TIPS): 1 hour
Time to table: 2 hours
Makes 12 standard-size muffins
  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour (see TIPS), fluffed to aerate before measuring or 250 grams
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 or 1-1/2 large eggs, see TIPS (if doubling the recipe, use 3 eggs)
  • 1/4 cup (55g) vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup (60g) water
  • 3/4 cup (185g, about half a 15-ounce can) canned 100% pumpkin puree (see TIPS)
  • 1/2 cup (60g) dried cranberries or currants, optional but recommended
  • Orange liqueur to cover, optional

FLOUR MIXTURE In a large bowl, stir together the flour mixture.

PUMPKIN MIXTURE In a second bowl, whisk the egg until well combined, add the remaining ingredients and whisk until just combined.

COMBINE & REST With a spatula or wooden spoon, stir the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture. Let the batter rest at room temperature for an hour. (Now’s a good time to set a timer for 45 minutes to remind yourself to heat the oven.)

DRIED FRUIT If the fruit is dry, soak in liqueur to plump up while the muffin batter rests. Just before baking, drain off the liqueur and gently stir into the batter.

BAKE Heat the oven to 400F/200C. Lightly spray a muffin tin or line muffins tins with (my favorite) silicone cupcake liners. With two spoons, one to scoop and one to scrape, fill the muffin tins, then gently smooth the tops. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes before gently removing from the muffin tin and serving.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Perfect Whole-Wheat Pumpkin Muffin Without/With Dried Fruit: 133/158 Calories; 5g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 17mg Cholesterol; 319/320mg Sodium; 22/27g Carb; 1g Fiber; 17/22g Sugar; 1g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS Old Points 3 & PointsPlus 4


  • 4 ounces (115) low-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 12 toasted pecan halves

Mix the muffins (recipe above) and let rest for an hour. Skip the dried fruit.

While the muffin batter rests, stir together the cream cheese, brown sugar and vanilla. Spread the mixture onto a piece of waxed paper, it should be about a half-inch thick (see photo below to see how). Wrap the waxed paper around the mixture and freeze.

Just before baking, fill the muffin tins with the muffin batter. Cut off a small piece of cream cheese and barely push into the center of each muffin, leaving the top exposed. Top cross-wise with a pecan half.

Bake same as above.

My Recipe, Per Cream Cheese Pumpkin Muffin (like Starbucks), see my recipe above: 173 Calories; 8g Tot Fat; 3g Sat Fat; 24mg Cholesterol; 356mg Sodium; 24g Carb; 1g Fiber; 18g Sugar; 2g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS Old Points 4 & PointsPlus 5


Starbucks Recipe, Per Cream Cheese Pumpkin Muffin (from Starbucks): 470 Calories; 24g Tot Fat; 6g Sat Fat; 85mg Cholesterol; 420 Sodium; 60g Carb; 1g Fiber; 28g Sugar; 6g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS Old Points 11 & Points Plus 13 (Data Source NutritionData)
Hey Starbucks, listen up, please! Your Starbucks Cream Cheese Muffin has three times the calories, 3 times the fat, 3.5 times the cholesterol, 2.5 times the carbs, 1.5 times the sugar and nearly 3 times the Weight Watchers points than my recipe. Please! A company like Starbucks can do better!

Baking Tips

For Cream Cheese Pumpkin Muffins like Starbucks, mix and freeze the cream cheese mixture before baking. Recipe ♥

The cream cheese mixture needs to be frozen before getting slipped into the muffin batter. Just spread the mixture on a piece of waxed paper, wrap and then freeze while the muffin batter rests. Then cut it into twelve pieces. The cream cheese mixture will keep in the freezer for a few weeks if you want to make a mixed batch, some with cream cheese, some without.

Easy Measuring by Weight, Not Volume

Many Kitchen Parade recipes are measued  by weight, not volume with a kitchen scale. The results are more consistent and there are fewer dishes to watch!

Careful readers perhaps have noticed that for awhile now, I include metric measurements for some ingredients, especially for baking. I've especially learned to appreciate recipes where no measuring cups are needed, when the ingredients can be added one at a time using a kitchen scale. That's why, for example, in this recipe, I show the weight of the water and the oil in addition to the volume. It makes mixing these easy muffins such a snap!

More Muffin Recipes

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Savory Cornbread Muffins Banana Streusel Muffins Gingerbread Muffins

More Favorite Pumpkin Recipes – Savory

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Fall Stew Baked in a Whole Pumpkin Pumpkin-Stuffed Lasagna Rolls Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Grits (or Pumpkin Grits or Butternut Squash Grits)

More Favorite Pumpkin Recipes – Sweet!

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Pumpkin Lattes Pumpkin Bread Pudding Pumpkin Cheesecake

Cookbook Giveaway
Sorry, the Contest Is Closed Now

For ONE entry, leave a comment below, finishing this sentence:
"My idea for modifying the Perfect Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins is ... ".
Leave your e-mail address too, feel free to code it so that the spambots won't find it, something like so-n-so AT hello HYPHEN kitchen DOTDOT com.
For TEN entries, make the muffins, either as written or your own variation. Then leave a comment telling everyone how you liked them, how you adapted the recipe. Again, please leave your e-mail address.
Just to be nice, maybe you'd share the news about this giveaway with your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter? I'd appreciate it much!
The contest will close Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 at end of day CST. This is plenty of time to make the muffins over Thanksgiving, yes? I'll select and notify a random winner on December 1. If that's you, and I can't reach you or don't hear back from you in 24 hours, then I'll select another.
Your choice of cookbooks! My fellow food bloggers are raving about two new cookbooks, I own one (can you guess which one?) and have the second on my wish list. So, your choice, either:

Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan which Amazon just named the top cookbook of 2010, congratulations, Dorie!


Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers by Pam Anderson who cooks with her daughters at the food blog Three Many Cooks.

Legalese This give-away is funded by me-myself-and-nobody-else. Winners must have mailing addresses in either the U.S. or Canada.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

Quick Links to This Page

(for easy bookmarking and searching)
~ Cookbook Giveaway ~
~ Cream Cheese Pumpkin Muffins Like Starbucks' ~

© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2010, 2015 (repub)