Low Fat Pumpkin Apple Muffin Recipe
This article contains information on the best varieties of pumpkin to use in muffins, and gives recipes for two variations of muffin.
Varieties of Pumpkin
If you think of pumpkins as those lightweight, almost hollow vegetables that you hollow out even more for Halloween, think again. Pumpkins come in many varieties, and not all are watery, stringy and without substance or flavor!
Leave those featherweight pumpkins to the kids, and for this recipe choose a pumpkin that's denser in texture and heavier for its size than the Jack-o-Lanterns. I used a Blue Lakota pumpkin in these muffins and after making two batches there was enough left for a hearty stew and a pot of soup.
Blue Lakota pumpkin hails from the American Mid-west and is an heirloom variety. That means it has been grown for a long time, probably centuries, but not in large-scale farming. The seeds of heirloom vegetables and fruit are passed on through generations, and varieties have developed, but have not been genetically modified.
If you don't know the Blue Lakota, you can see it in the photo below. To my mind its skin looks more green than blue, but I think we'd agree its flesh is vibrant orange.
If you can't get Blue Lakota, any dense pumpkin variety will do instead. However, do not try to carve this pumpkin! You can see from the photo the seed cavity is small, and I can assure you trying to hollow out its dense flesh would take a very long time and give you very sore arms!
Blue Lakota Pumpkin
Most pumpkin muffin recipes suggest using canned pumpkin. I don't recommend this. The linings of almost all canned food contain Bisphenol-A (BPA), a hormone disrupting chemical, now banned in babies' bottles in several countries. I recommend using fresh pumpkin instead.
I have given two variations of this recipe: in the first version the pumpkin and apples are grated or chopped in a food processor and added to the mixture raw. This is similar to how you would make a carrot cake, and the texture when cooked is also similar to carrot cake.
If you want a texture closer to that of canned pumpkin, you can stew the pumpkin and apples first and puree them before adding to the mixture. This is very easy to do - while the pumpkin and fruit are cooking you can prepare the rest of the muffin mixture. In this version of the recipe I have used dried dates instead of sugar and so they are stewed with the pumpkin and apple. You could omit the dates and use sugar instead if you choose.
As you can see in the photo below the muffins do look different on the outside, but inside the texture looks the same. For the muffin on the left the pumpkin and apple was not precooked, and for the one on the right it was. Both versions are equally delicious.
Whole cane sugar
Whole Cane Sugar or Dates
The first version of this recipe uses whole cane sugar, also known as rapadura or sometimes as jaggery. This is dehydrated cane juice - only the water is removed and the molasses and minerals remain, making it a healthier alternative to refined sugar. If you can't get whole cane sugar, then molasses or Muscovado sugar would be suitable alternatives.
The second version of the muffins uses dried dates instead. I don't like food very sweet, but if you do have a sweet tooth you could add a little more dates or some sugar.
Low Fat Muffins
Most muffins contain milk, but some time ago I discovered that muffins kept better if I used water instead. This also keeps down on the fat, since water contains no fat!
I'm inclined towards lazy when cooking, and the muffin book that started me off suggested using either melted butter or oil… hmm, now let me see, shall I stand over a stove melting butter and trying to work out how much solid butter will make 4 tablespoons when melted, or shall I measure out a few tablespoons of oil? No contest! And no saturated fats, because this recipe uses sunflower oil.
There is an egg in this recipe, but although eggs do contain cholesterol, but there are two types of cholesterol, and free range eggs contain the type that is actually good for us: high density lipoproteins (HDL.)
Cook Time at Oven: 375°F/190°/170°fan oven or gas mark 5.
Low Fat Pumpkin Apple Muffins: Ingredients
Ingredients for the pumpkin and apple mixture:
- 225 grams /8 oz pumpkin (approx. 2 cups when chopped)
- 2 eating apples
- 3oz whole cane sugar
- 110 gram/4 oz /½ cup dates (chopped in half) and 100 ml/4oz /½ cup of boiling water
Ingredients for the rest of the muffin mixture:
- 250 gram/9 oz/1½ cups wholemeal flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
- 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon each of nutmeg and ginger
- 1 egg
- 90 ml/3 fl oz/⅓ cup sunflower oil
- 90 ml/3 fl oz/⅓ cup water
Preparing the pumpkin, apples and datesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Instructions for preparing the pumpkin and apple:
If you are not pre-cooking the pumpkin:
- Peel and finely grate the pumpkin and apple. (Or you can finely chop it in a food processor.)
- Add the sugar to mixture and set aside while you prepare the rest of the muffin mix.
If you are precooking the pumpkin:
- Peel and chop the pumpkin and apple.
- Place pumpkin, apple, dates and water in a pan, and simmer (cook gently) until soft. This will take about 15 – 20 minutes depending on the type of pumpkin you use.
- Remove from heat, cool a little and then puree till smooth.
Instructions for the rest of the muffin mixture
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices. Some of the bran from the flour may not go through the sieve. If so, that’s fine: just tip it into the mixing bowl.
- In another bowl beat the egg with a fork.
- Measure out the water.
- Add all the wet ingredients to the dry, except for the water.
Mix everything else together first, and then add a little of the water.
It is best to add the water slowly, because pumpkins and apples vary in how much liquid they hold, so you may only need some of the water, or you may need more.
The aim is to get a mixture that is “dropping consistency.” This means the mixture drops off the spoon slowly. If it is runny you have too much water, and should add a little more flour.
The photograph opposite shows a muffin mixture that can drop off a spoon but is not runny.
Spoon into muffin tins
Spoon into muffin tins, and bake for 20 minutes. (Although this should be fine for most ovens, there is some variation in how they cook, so if yours usually takes less time than recipes suggest, reduce the cooking time slightly.)
To test if the muffins are ready, with your finger push gently on the top of one of them. If it springs back it is ready, but if your finger leaves a dent, cook for another 5 minutes.
Enjoy with a cup of tea.
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