Pumpkin Bran muffins with a Moroccan twist

We woke up to fall yesterday. Suddenly. After a month of warm, late summer days and gorgeous September skies, October arrived as though to say “alright, enough of this. It’s time to let go.” And let go we did – we had little choice. I was downtown last night, my feet aching as my toes were forced to scrunch up inside shoes for the first time, and I honestly wished I had wooly mitts and a scarf! With fall comes not only closed toed shoes, but a sad farewell to peaches and figs, to my local farmer’s market and my beautiful window boxes full of vines and flowers.

There are, of course, a few happy things about fall: crimson and orange leaves, deer encounters in the woods, pulling out my scarf collection, and of course, pumpkin – one of the greatest root vegetables on earth.

With the coming of fall, I have decided to hibernate indoors today to bake and cook.  Now, I always make muffins on Sunday morning: much like my Saturday pancakes, it has become a tradition in this house of two. But this week called for something different from the banana or blueberry-oat muffins I’ve been whipping up lately. It’s time – at last – for pumpkin.

These are very healthy and very low-fat muffins. There is no added oil or butter. What that means is that they wont last as long as muffins that are full of oil. If you can’t eat them all in two days, I suggest freezing them – otherwise they will dry out. I find that most muffin recipes call for at least 125 ml of oil or butter (that’s half a cup) and although it makes for a very moist muffin, it also makes for a very fattening muffin. I simply don’t use oil or butter at all. But you can feel free to adjust the recipe if you want some oil in there – simply replace part of the apple sauce with an equal amount of oil. In this concoction, I decided to get a bit adventurous and use Ras-el-Hanout. This is a Moroccan spice blend that I love – it’s made of anywhere from 8 -12 spices – and a friend of mine brought me back a huge supply from Marrakech that I need to eat my way through. I was very happy with the hint of savoury cumin and coriander mixed in with cumin, cloves, cardamom and allspice. But if you don’t have (or want) ras-el-hanout, pumpkin pie spice blends will work just as well. If you don’t have a pumpkin pie spice mix, simply use 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ground cloves, and 1/8 tsp allspice. I also used Splenda brown sugar – mainly because my husband does not like sugary-sweet things. If you want to use Splenda, use a scant 1/4 cup instead of 1/3 cup. If you are using regular brown sugar, you can increase to 1/2 cups for a sweeter muffin.

Ingredients (for 12 muffins)

(Preheat oven to 375 degrees)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or whole spelt – as I used)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup wheat bran

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp Ras-el-Hanout (or pumpkin pie spice)

1 cup pumpkin puree (canned or fresh – make sure it is not already spiced if you are using a canned puree)

1/3 cup milk

1 egg white + 1 egg (or use two eggs)

1/2 cup apple sauce

6-8 pitted dates, chopped finely (optional)

2 tbsp hulled pumpkin seeds/pepitas (optional)

Instructions:

In a large bowl, mix the flours, bran, sugar, spice, baking soda and baking powder. Blend well using a fork or a whisk. In a separate bowl, stir the pumpkin, milk, apple sauce, egg whites and egg until blended. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well with a fork. Stir in the chopped dates and pumpkin seeds (if using) and then scoop 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin cup. Bake for approximately 20 – 25 minutes and allow to cool for five minutes. Remember to freeze the muffins if you are not eating them within two days.

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