These pumpkin muffins/loaves are quick and simple, absolutely delicious, and… nothing new. The recipe is nearly identical in two of my favorite baking books (Pastry Queen and Baked, save for the major difference of a pecan streusel topping on the former, chocolate chips in the latter). However, I read that duplicity not as a lack of originality but as a recognition that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This recipe just works. It’s a classic, laden with rich autumnal spices (the usual pumpkin accompaniments: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves). It even looks like autumn, wearing a beautiful orange tinge thanks to the pumpkin puree. Incredibly moist and tender, due to the use of oil instead of butter, a generous dose of sugar, and, of course, the pumpkin puree, it’s the ideal morning (or afternoon) pick-me-up.
As I’ve said, the Baked cookbook version features chocolate chips, but shockingly I withheld and used Rather’s streusel instead. Decide the bread’s fate as you will. I left the muffins plain but topped the loaf with a halved batch of streusel. The muffins disappeared quickly, but the loaf is stashed away in the freezer, waiting to be pulled out to liven up a dim, chilly morning.
Makes 24 muffins or 2 loaves
1 1/2 cups pecan halves*
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 toasted pecan pieces (reserved from above)
To make the bread: Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet until golden brown and aromatic, 7 to 9 minutes. Let cool, roughly chop, and separate out 1/2 cup for the streusel.
Grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans or 24 regular muffin cups (I used a combination: one loaf, 12 muffins) with butter and flour or cooking spray or, in the case of muffins, use liners.
Whisk together the oil and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs, pumpkin, water, and vanilla until combined.
In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring until just combined. Stir in 1 cup pecan pieces. Evenly divide the batter among the loaf pans or muffin tins (muffin tins should be filled almost to the top).
To make the topping: Stir together the sugar, butter, cinnamon, and remaining 1/2 cup chopped pecans in a small bowl. Sprinkle the topping over the loaves or muffins.
Bake the loaves until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes. Keep in mind that the topping will remain gooey, so be sure to test the cake itself for doneness. Bake muffins for about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Storing: Because these muffins are so moist, they’re great keepers, a few days in a airtight container at room temperature.
*Variation: Craving chocolate in the morning? (No judgments.) Swap the pecans for chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups), and omit the streusel. (Or make some really tasty bread with pecans, chocolate chips, and streusel…)