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Sunday, October 26, 2008

pumpkin cupcakes with walnut streusel topping


I can’t help it. I’m going to admit that I own another fun kitchen gadget… a FOOD PORTIONER for criminy’s sake. What is with me these days? Two posts ago I’m talking you into buying a mandoline, then I’m giving you excuses for collecting more cookie cutters… Maybe I should change the name of my blog to Alison’s Infomercial? “Doing my best to keep the American economy afloat…  one kitchen gadget at a time.”

Before I dig myself in any deeper, let me just explain what a food portioner is. It looks like an ice cream scooper, you know, with the little lever thing on the side that you push to scrape the food out? When you were in elementary school, the lucky lunch line cafeteria workers got to serve mashed potatoes with it. Each flawlessly smooth alabaster mound of reconstituted potatoes, plopped unceremoniously into its perfectly sized compartment in the divided tray…  Did you want to be one of those food servers or WHAT? 

I love to use a food portioner to scoop batter into muffin cups! It’s what the pros use, and let me tell you, it’s so much easier than doling the batter out with a spoon or spatula. The little push-button scraper thingie cleans the cup out each time, so you don’t drip between muffin cups. Which means that you don’t have to scrub baked-on batter drops off the tin afterwards! (Big bonus in my book.) And, you get the perfect amount of batter in each cup, so you don’t overfill them, which you know results in converging muffin-tops cemented to your pan.

You’ll find food portioners of every size imaginable at your local restaurant supply store. (Beware: if you like to bake or cook in large batches, restaurant supply stores are filled with oh-so-tempting items.) You want a size 16 scoop for regular-sized cupcakes or muffins. (That number means you can get 16 scoops per quart, or something like that. The smaller the number, the bigger the scoop.)

Go ahead, live a little! Get a food portioner—it’s a pretty affordable way to live a childhood fantasy! And just think—if you let your kids use it, they might even aspire to a different career than a cafeteria line server.  (OK, so Meredith still just wants to be a scooper-outer when she grows up—but come on! She’s only four!)



pumpkin cupcakes with walnut streusel topping

This recipe is a modification of a combination of two recipes from different cookbooks by the same person. (How’s that for complicated?) Isa Chandra Moscowitz wrote both Veganomiconand Vegan with a Vengeance, and includes recipes for pumpkin muffins and a pumpkin streusel cake in her books. And then I had to make a few more changes… Anyway, I’m not a vegan, but I didn’t have any eggs when I wanted to make a pumpkin treat. I’m happy to report, with all that wonderful moist pumpkin in the batter, you don’t miss the eggs a bit!

The roasted walnut oil I’m referring to here really makes the flavor nutty and rich and wonderful—I like to use Loriva brand, which I can find in my grocery store. But this recipe will still be yummy with canola oil.

walnut streusel

¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons roasted walnut oil (or canola oil)
1 cup chopped walnuts (medium-fine)


1 (15-ounce) can of pureed pumpkin, or 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree (don’t use pumpkin pie mix)
¾ cups soy milk or regular milk
½ cup canola oil (I like to use about ¼ cup roasted walnut oil and ¼ cup canola oil, but all canola is fine, too)
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons light molasses (not blackstrap)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two muffin tins with 16 to 18 paper cupcake liners. If you like, spray the liners lightly with cooking spray, just to make sure they come out of their papers easily.
2. In a small bowl, mix the streusel ingredients together with a fork until all is moistened with the oil.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, milk, oil, granulated sugar, molasses, and vanilla. Mix well.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients with a dry whisk, to mix all the spices thoroughly into the flour.
5. Dump the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and fold together gently with a rubber spatula. Don’t overmix here, but keep folding until no more streaks of flour show up.
6. Scoop the batter into the cupcake cups, about 2/3 full. Don’t overfill them, because they do rise quite a bit. Sprinkle a spoonful of the streusel topping over each cupcake.
7. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the walnut topping is golden brown, and more importantly, a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
8. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes in the muffin tin. Then remove each cupcake to a cooling rack until completely cool. If you eat these while they are still warm, they are too moist and gooey, but they are perfect when they cool completely.


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