Spicy Squash Muffins (Vegan, Sourdough) and Variations

My existential question to the universe on this Sunday morning is what maximum quantity of grated squash can be held together successfully by what minimum amount of batter.  Since it’s a question which life or death truly hangs on.  Not.

My answer however, inspired by jae steel’s recipe from her awesome book, Get it Ripe, is this moist and addictive muffin which carries the nutritional benefits of fermentation and a whole lot of winter squash.  The secret is to make sure you grate the squash quite finely – a food processor with the small-hole attachment works wonderfully.  And don’t expect hard and sour goods either – using baking soda in the recipe helps with rise, crumb and neutralizes any acidity while the muffins cook leaving nothing but decadence behind.

Yield: 24 mini-muffins + 5 regular sized muffins

What you need:

  • 1-3/4 cups whole grain flour (white soft wheat is a good choice)
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ginger powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup sourdough starter
  • 1/4 cup + 2-3 tablespoons apple juice, divided (or water, but apple juice adds a “je ne sais quoi” that’s really nice)
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 packed cups finely grated winter squash (or see the variations below if you’re not so much a squash person)

What you do:

  1. In an unreactive bowl (glass or ceramic – sourdough is acidic and will react with metal or low-quality stainless, oxidizing, and blackening your batter) whisk together the flour, oats, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and sea salt.  Made a well in the center and add the maple syrup, sourdough starter and 1/4 cup of the apple juice.  Mix until all the flour is absorbed.  Fold in the pumpkin seeds, cover, and leave to ferment 5-8 hours.
  2. When the fermentation is done, preheat the oven to 375F (190C) and prep a mini-muffin pan and a regular-sized muffin half-pan with papers – or grease and flour – as preferred.
  3. In a small mixing cup, whisk the baking soda and 1 tablespoon of the sunflower oil together until smooth.  Whisk in the remaining oil and then add the oil and soda emulsion to the fermented batter.  The batter will be pretty stiff from it’s rest, add 2 or 3 additional tablespoons of apple juice or water and blend along with the oil to loosen it all to a thick but scoopable consistence.
  4. Fold in the finely grated squash, making sure to get it all coated with batter.
  5. Scoop into the muffin tins, filling them to the top.  Any empty muffin-spaces should be filled with a centimeter or two of water to keep the humidity level in the oven right during cooking.
  6. Bake 17 minutes for the mini-muffins (or until a tester comes out clean), and another 3 minutes (20 minutes total) for the regular-sized muffins.
  7. Remove from the oven, cool 5 minutes in the pan and then transfer to wire-racks to finish cooling.

Variations:

  • Carrot-Cake Muffins: Replace the grated squash with an equal amount of finely grated carrot and the pumpkin seeds by raisins or currants;
  • Parsnip-Cranberry Muffins: Replace the grated squash with 2 packed cups of finely grated parsnip and the pumpkin seeds by 1/3 cup apple-juice sweetened dried cranberries.  Will yield slightly less.
  • Beet-Mulberry Muffins: Replace the grated squash with 2-1/2 cups of finely grated beet, the pumpkin seeds with an equal amount of dried mulberries (soaked and drained) and the apple juice with orange juice.

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