My mom gave me a simple gift many years ago. At the time I was in high school, working afternoons as a receptionist — a job that allowed me to read and study.
“I don’t know when you’ll have time to use this,” she said, handing me a small book. The book was a cookbook dedicated to muffin recipes. Sweet, savory, fancy, simple — the variety of options that could be baked in muffin tins ran the gamut. My mom’s friend, who had recommended the book, advised me to try one recipe in particular: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins.
During my mid-teen years, I found baking to be great fun. I loved the time in the kitchen, the smells, but most of all, I loved giving treats to my friends. I’d show up at school with brown paper lunch sacks crammed with goodies, sharing them with my close friends, using them as “bait” to make new.
For 30 years, the same small cookbook has remained close at hand, always ready to guide me, step-by-step, to baked-goods nirvana. The aroma of pumpkin pie spices has become synonymous with fall weather, with new babies, with holiday gatherings. The muffins taste like breakfast with best friends, potluck gatherings, gift baskets, and like snacks with the chocolate-covered smiles of my children. The deep brown of semi-sweet chocolate against sliced almonds and the earthy orange of pumpkin are the colors of a happy husband.
It’s a recipe I’ve never messed up. Not once. They replicate as gluten-free, dairy-free (for my kids’ classmates) with simple substitutes.
It was a simple gift, but it meant so much. It gave me the ability to share. To show love. To make friends. And now, I’ll give it to you.
Overland Park mom Emily Parnell writes alternate weeks. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @emilyjparnell
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup plain pumpkin (half a can)
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
1 cup chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350. Spread almonds on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes. Watch them closely, remove when just beginning to brown. Slide the almonds off the pan to cool.
Line 12 muffin tins with paper muffin cups.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and melted butter. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk eggs into the pumpkin and butter mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and toasted almonds.
Pour wet ingredients over dry, and stir until moistened.
Spoon into the muffin cups, and bake 20-25 minutes, or until puffed and springy in the center.
Cool on a wire rack.
These keep in a plastic bag for a couple days on the counter, a week or two in the fridge, and they also freeze well. Substitute coconut oil for the butter for a dairy-free option, use part whole wheat for a healthy option and even substitute gluten-free flour.
Consider doubling — there is no such thing as too many of these muffins!