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Eric Akis: Butternut squash adds nutritious touch to muffins

These dense, nicely spiced muffins are strewn with shreds of squash, dried cranberries and walnuts
Nicely spiced muffins rich with shredded squash, dried cranberries and walnuts. ERIC AKIS

I bought a large butternut squash recently and peeled, seeded, cut and roasted some of it to serve with the sausages I was having for dinner. I then had to decide what to do with the uncooked, leftover squash I had and a breakfast food came to mind: muffins.


Well, I thought, I could use my box grater and, like when you make carrot muffins, grate that squash into shreds and mix them into a muffin batter, which is what I did. I also added ingredients that would complement the squash, which has a taste somewhat like a cross between a sweet potato and a carrot, and they included dried cranberries, walnuts and spices.

When baked, you end up with dense, ingredient-filled muffins that, if desired, you could decoratively top with a thin slice of squash. My recipe for them yields eight muffins, but it could be halved if you desire a smaller amount of them. If you do reduce the recipe, remember that a quarter cup equals four tablespoons.

The nutritious thing about adding butternut squash to a muffin is that it is a good source of fibre, vitamins C and A, and a range of minerals.

If you’ve not baked for a while and the flour you have has been sitting and compacting, before measuring what you need for the muffins, give it good stir with a whisk. This will aerate the flour and make it more like it was when first purchased.

You can serve the muffins warm or at room temperature spread with a bit of butter. I also served them with some sliced, aged cheddar cheese, which worked well with the tastes of the squash, cranberries and walnuts.

Butternut Squash, Cranberry and Walnut Muffins

These dense, nicely spiced muffins are strewn with shreds of squash, dried cranberries and walnuts.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 18 to 20 minutes

Makes: Eight muffins

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1 1/4 cups grated, peeled and seeded butternut squash

1/2 cup walnut pieces (see Note 1)

1/2 cup dried cranberries (see Note 2)

2 large eggs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

• vegetable oil spray

8 about 3-inch long, 1-inch wide, paper-thin slices of butter squash (optional; see Note 3)

Place an oven rack in middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add the squash, walnuts and cranberries and stir with a spoon until those items are coated with the flour mixture.

To make the batter’s wet ingredients, place eggs in a medium bowl and beat well. Add the sugars, oil and vanilla and mix well to combine. Make a well in the flour mixture, pour wet ingredients into it, and then mix gently until a well-combined, very thick batter is formed.

Coat eight cups of a 12-cup non-stick muffin tin with oil spray. Fill those eight cups with the muffin batter. If desired, top the batter in each cup with a thin slice of squash. Bake the muffins in the middle of the oven 18 to 20 minutes, or until they spring back when touched in the centre. Let muffins cool 10 minutes on a baking rack, and then remove from the tin. Enjoy muffins warm or at room temperature.

Note 1: Walnut pieces can vary in size and if some of yours are large, break or cut them into smaller pieces before using them.

Note 2: The type of dried cranberries I used when testing this recipe were the Ocean Spray Craisins brand 50 per cent less sugar variety, which are sold at many supermarkets. Regular dried cranberries will, of course, also work here.

Note 3: I used a hand-held slicer to very thinly slice the squash. A mandolin will also work. The slices of squash used to garnish each muffin have to be very thin or they won’t cook through by the time the muffins are done.

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Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.