Baking is a workout.
It starts the moment I begin gathering ingredients: I heft the gallon of milk out of the fridge while balancing the butter and flimsy cardboard carton of eggs in my other hand. After nudging my pale pink stepstool across the tile with the toe of my shoe, I climb up and s-t-r-e-t-c-h for the whole wheat flour on the tallest shelf my 5’3” frame can barely even see, then lug it to the only open counter space on the other side of the kitchen, all while wrenching open the stuck drawer for measuring cups before deftly hip-checking it closed.
And that’s just the warm-up.
I refuse to wash more than the minimum number of measuring spoons and mixing bowls, so heaven forbid I’d have to scrub the two electric beaters too. Instead, I whip out my handy dandy special tool—a thick and heavy dinner fork—for cutting butter into flour or creaming it with sugar because I am 100% sure it’s safe to toss in the dishwasher (as soon as I lick off the batter). Despite this many years of working overtime, my biceps still moan and beg for the mixer every time.
And I’m just getting to strength training: maintaining a firm and steady death-grip on the 100-pound mixing bowl bursting at the seams with batter as I delicately spoon it into the patiently waiting muffin tin below. Without dripping a single wayward plop of chocolate or vanilla on the countertop.
Once I thrust those into the oven, the cardio comes around again.
Soap, meet sponge. Sponge, meet hand. Hand, meet the Mount Shasta of silverware and cups and bowls coated with salt and sugar and oil.
Normally, my right bicep has rested long enough to attack with renewed vigor, but today… Today it met its match. In the form of an azure blue muffin tin.
I bake almost exclusively with this silicone muffin tin because it leaves the bottoms a beautiful golden brown—only a shade or two darker that the tops—unlike most metal tins that threaten to blacken the bottoms instead. But if you’ve never worked with silicone tins before, there’s something you should know: they’re flimsy. And bendable. And downright impossible to clean properly since they fold and flip whenever you sponge hard enough to wash off the last 10 muffin batches worth of residual cooking spray build-up.
And after 5 years of procrastinating, I finally scrubbed them clean—all in the name of Spiced Pumpkin Muffins!
They’re soft and tender, moist with just a kiss of sweetness—enough to taste without sending you to the dentist. Add in the pumpkin and Holy Trinity of Spices, and you’ll be reaching for a second one before you even swallow a bite of the first!
Now after that long intro, I need to let you in on a little secret… You don’t actually need to pull on your workout clothes and sweatband to make these! The recipe is really simple: stir the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet ingredients in another; mix them until moist; and pop in the oven to bake.
You’ll use half white and half wheat flour in these muffins. Along with extra fiber and nutrients, the wheat adds a subtle nuttiness that accentuates the flavors of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger (aka the Holy Trinity of Spices). But with 1½ cups of moist pumpkin purée, you’ll barely realize the wheat flour is inside!
Put away your butter—you’ll only need a scant 1½ tablespoons of oil. Yes, it’s a small amount. But these muffins are healthy and already packed full of moisture from the pumpkin! And strange as it may seem, you must use a tablespoon of lemon juice. Because we aren’t using eggs, we need the acid in the lemon juice to react with the base in the baking powder and baking soda to lighten up the texture and prevent the muffins’ insides from turning too dense. With such a tiny volume, you won’t taste the lemon at all—only lots of spices and pumpkin!
After baking and popping them out of the tins, try to resist hiding the muffins from your family members or biting their heads off if they ask for a taste. I hoarded the whole batch, especially after calculating their Nutrition Information (go on, take a peek—your jaw will drop at just how few calories are packed inside of these tall muffins!) and finished them off in only 5 days. That’s an average of more than 2 muffins a day!
And I already baked 3 more batches.