Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins

If there were a place on earth where you could experience a new england fall for ten months out of the year, I would probably move there. I would pursue leaf peeping like a sport, build a crackling fire nightly, and indulge in every hearty autumn recipe at my whim. Until I find this utopia, I will make do with my annual three months of fall. I will churn through umpteen pumpkins (pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, toasted pumpkin seeds) and hundreds of pounds of Vermont cheddar (grilled cheese, cheese and crackers, fondue), and on a few mornings, I will combine the two in this very autumnal muffin. Like all good muffins, this one is quick to put together. The pumpkin base is moist but spiced with cayenne and black pepper so the sharpness of the cheddar has a chance to shine. I also like to top the muffin with a little extra cheese, so you get a savory-sweet morning experience.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin puree
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • teaspoons salt
  • teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • cups (about 4 ounces) grated sharp cheddar
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, optional

Method

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray each cup of a standard 12-cup muffin pan with a little bit of vegetable spray and use a paper towel to spread the oil evenly along the bottom and up the sides of each cup.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and sour cream. Add the eggs and butter and whisk until combined.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and brown sugar. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well, and fold until just combined. Fold in three-quarters of the cheese.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar and the pumpkin seeds on top of the muffins. Bake them for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the muffin pan cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out the muffins. Serve them warm.

Muffins taste best when eaten fresh, but they can be made ahead of time and reheated in a 200-degree oven.