I have to come clean about something: I’m terrible at creating original dessert recipes. I’ve thrown out so many failed desserts in my test kitchen that it makes me cringe at the food waste to think about it.
There’s a reason dessert is a four letter word on Top Chef: baking and pastry requires scientific precision that cooking doesn’t. Sure, it’s super helpful knowing the science behind cooking methods, but there’s a ton of room for experimentation in cooking without resulting in abject failure. (Though, I can’t lie, abject failure does happen from time-to-time in all types of cooking.)
There’s a precision with baking and pastry that I will just never have the patience for. And that’s fine. But it means it takes me forever to create new dessert recipes from the ground-up. And, let’s be real, I don’t have the attention span to keep trying most of the time.
An Almost Perfect Muffin Recipe
However, I’m pretty great at making tweaks to tried and true pastry recipes. This recipe for vegan pumpkin muffins falls into this category. These vegan pumpkin muffins are heavily influenced by Claire Saffitz’s Seedy Breakfast Muffins from her absolutely fantastic book, Dessert Person. This recipe was calling my name…except, I don’t love blueberries. And, when I tried the recipe as written, I truly despised the blueberry addition. It’s a personal preference and I am sure blueberry stans would love the original.
On the other hand, I loved everything else about this recipe. It’s easy. It doesn’t require a stand mixer. I’m a huge fan of the crunchy texture of seeds. I liked the bit of whole wheat flour in the recipe. And I liked that it wasn’t super sweet–it’s not a cupcake in disguise. The texture is fantastic. The muffins rose perfectly. And it’s vegan without feeling like it’s just a little bit…off.
I did make a few more changes to this recipe besides removing the blueberries. It’s pumpkin season, and I thought these muffins would be a great base for a seasonal pumpkin spice muffin. So, I swapped the applesauce for pumpkin puree and the cinnamon for pumpkin spice. Instead of blueberries, I added dried cranberries to match the autumnal flavor profile. I also added a handful of pecans to the batter with the seeds because I love them. One final substitution was just pure convenience: I swapped the coconut oil for canola oil because that’s what I had.
The resulting tweaked recipe is a delicious nod to fall while maintaining all of the elements I loved about the original recipe. This is a muffin that vegans and non-vegans alike will love. Add it to your fall baking bucket list!
A Few Key Ingredients You Might Need
This recipe requires a few ingredients you might not have in the pantry (click the links to purchase on Amazon):
- Ground flax seed is used as an egg replacer in many vegan recipes–mixing them with water creates a thick paste that acts as a binder in baked goods. They are great to have on hand for allergen friendly baking.
- Chia seeds are used in the topping and add a great texture though you could probably leave these off if you’d like. But if you buy some, you can also make my recipe for chia seed pudding!
- Demerara sugar is also used in the topping, but I don’t think it’s optional. The muffin itself is not very sweet so this sugar adds both a crunchy texture to the muffin and, in my opinion, a needed boost of sweetness.
Vegan Pumpkin Muffins
- 2 tbsp pepitas
- 1 tbsp shelled sunflower seeds
- 1 tbsp demerara sugar
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- 1 tsp poppy seeds
- ⅓ cup pepitas
- ¼ cup shelled sunflower seeds
- ½ cup pecan halves roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp flax meal (13g)
- ¼ cup water (57g)
- 1 cup apple juice, apple cider, or water see note
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (130g)
- ½ cup whole wheat flour (70g)
- 2 tsp pumpkin spice blend
- 2¼ tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup pumpkin puree (220g)
- ½ cup canola oil (113g)
- ½ cup packed brown sugar (65g) light or brown is fine
- ¼ cup maple syrup (80g)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 350F.
- Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
- In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the muffin topping: pepitas, shelled sunflower seeds, demerara sugar, chia seeds, and poppy seeds. Set aside.
- Spread the remaining pepitas, shelled sunflower seeds plus the pecans on a small baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 6 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
- Heat ¼ cup water to a boil. Place flax seeds in a small bowl. Pour the hot water over the flax and mix well. Set aside to cool and thicken.
- Heat the apple juice, cider, or water until it's warm to the touch. Place the dried cranberries in a small bowl and pour the warm liquid over the fruit. Set aside to plump and cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, pumpkin spice blend, baking powder, and salt until well combined.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flax mixture, pumpkin puree, canola oil, brown sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla extract until well combined.
- Mix the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. There will be a few streaks of dry flour which is fine at this stage. You don't want to over mix because that will lead to a tougher muffin.
- Strain the liquid from the cranberries. Add to the muffin mixture along with the toasted nuts. Fold into the batter gently until well distributed.
- Add about 1/2 cup of batter to each muffin cup. I like to use a disher scoop for this. This recipe makes 12 muffins so just try to fill each muffin cup as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the seed/sugar topping evenly over each muffin. Bake for ~25 minutes until the muffins spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean (a few crumbs is fine.) Cool completely and serve.
- I like to use apple juice to plump the dried cranberries. It adds just a little more flavor and sweetness, but if you don’t have it, water will be just fine.
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