I love fall in eastern Canada. It is my favourite season filled with brisk cool air, bountiful crops, and a plethora of bright leaves displaying their finest across the forest. I remember hearing from one of my readers (Denise, I'm looking at you!) who expressed envy at countries who get to experience the turning of seasons. Although in the midst of winter's deep freeze I tend to envy the tropics, it's the arrival of fall that makes me so grateful for the equinox. This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving, so a lot of my thanks goes to Mother Nature.
When fall arrives, my thoughts turn immediately to pumpkins. For most folks, this means jack o' lanterns, toasted seeds or pie, but for me, it's the excitement of pumpkin muffins. I was first introduced to a pumpkin muffin in a wonderful coffee shop near my office that has local fair trade brew. The muffins were handmade by a local baker who used fair trade, organic ingredients. I liked them for the cinnamon crumble on the top. They stopped selling this morning delight a few years ago, and I've been on the quest for the best pumpkin muffin ever since. The richness and moisture of a quality pumpkin muffin is a moment of breakfast joy. (Or lunch, brunch, dinner, snack, midnight forage, etc...)
There are a number of great pumpkin muffin recipes out there, and I've perfected a few. However, my new challenge is to create a lower GI version of this harvest treat that will satisfy my spice cravings but still remain edible. I've assembled a recipe to try and lower the GI value (glycemic index) and make this a healthy breakfast item rather than a sugar surge covered in crumble. It's not an exact science, but by changing up a few ingredients, we can shift the sugar spike to a slow release.
Here's the recipe:
Lower GI Pumpkin Muffins
Mix the sugar, flours, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt together and sift. Combine the honey, oil, and eggs, and stir into the dry ingredients. Add in the pureed pumpkin, the walnuts and chocolate chips. Divide the batter into 12 muffin cups, and bake at 375F for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
OK. I know you're thinking - 'this is a 250 calorie muffin - are you nuts?!' Maybe so. There is a higher fat ratio from the nuts and chocolate, which helps to lower the impact of the sugars and starches. In return for spending these calories, you get a a decent little breakfast filled with antioxidants, vitamin A, magnesium, iron and 4 grams of protein! You have to get your calories from somewhere, so if you make them really count, you don't need to feel guilty. Considering that these hearty suckers will keep you going farther for longer, you can feel good about eating 'em. You'll be less likely to get into the office doughnuts, and that is a definite nutrition bonus.
To achieve this balance, I substituted honey for white sugar. Honey is sweeter than table sugar, and the body digests it more slowly. Because it's a liquid, I reduced some of the other liquid to keep the moisture ratio in tact. If you use honey in place of sugar, you can do a one for one ratio up to a full cup. Because honey browns foods much faster, I reduced the oven temperature slightly to ensure it didn't brown too quickly. I also added 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour in place of white. The added whole grains also temper the rapid digestion of sugars. The nuts and chocolate also add more fat, flavour, and a host of nutrients. Stick with 70% cocoa chocolate and you can indulge in antioxidants.
But really, what you want to know is how it tastes. I have to be honest - I think it puts the coffeehouse muffins to shame! There is no better way to celebrate the turning of the bountiful harvest season than hot coffee (fair trade, of course) and this sweet, spicy and moist breakfast muffin. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!