Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting Carried Away with Savory Butternut Squash Muffins with Apples, Caramelized Onions, and Cheddar Cheese

Savory Butternut Squash Muffins with Apples, Caramelized Onions, and Cheddar Cheese

The other day at the market, a woman approached me and said, "Excuse me, but may I ask you a question?"


"What do you do with that?" she asked, and pointed to the huge pile of squash in my carriage.

"The acorn squash?"

"No. That one."

"Oh, you mean the spaghetti squash." (No one ever knows what to do with spaghetti squash.)

"No, no. I know how to cook spaghetti squash. I meant that one," she said, and pointed to the only other squash in my carriage.

"You mean the butternut squash?" I asked, incredulous.

"Yeah. I never know what to do with them," she said.

I was shocked. To me, butternut squash is like your best friend. It's always there when you need it; it's dependable and rarely disappoints; it gets along well with others and is happy to try new things. Unfortunately not everyone has a long-standing relationship with butternut squash. The woman wanted easy ideas and stressed easy. Well, it doesn't get much easier (or tastier) than roasting butternut squash with some olive oil and herbs. She agreed. And it's a wonderful addition to fall salads, soups, pastas, and pizza. I had her until I said, "pizza." That's when her eyes widened in disbelief. I got carried away in the moment.

Butternut Squash Muffins with Apples, Sage and Cheddar Cheese

I didn't tell her I was going to use mine to bake a batch of Savory Butternut Squash Muffins with Apples, Caramelized Onions, and Cheddar Cheese. After the pizza comment, I was afraid she'd ditch the squash and run screaming from the store.

So I'll share my savory butternut squash muffins with you. I have made several different versions of these muffins, but this one is my favorite. Caramelizing the onion and roasting the butternut squash gives these muffins pleasant depth of flavor. Since they're laced with fresh herbs and sharp Cheddar cheese, they're also enticingly fragrant. You could eat them plain, but why would you, when you can smear them with herb butter? They get along really well with hearty soups and chilis as well as salads. I plan on making another batch for Thanksgiving dinner because savory muffins just seem so much more festive than plain old sliced bread.

Savory Butternut Squash Muffins with Apples, Caramelized Onions, and Cheddar Cheese
Makes 12 regular size muffins.
Print recipe only here.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup milk
1/3 cup honey
2 large eggs
1/3 cup canola oil, plus 2 teaspoons, divided
1 small yellow onion, diced
a pinch of sugar
1 medium mildly sweet apple (such as Fuji), peeled and shredded
1 cup cooked, mashed butternut squash
1- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs, such as rosemary and sage
3/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts

Simple Herb Butter:
Add 2 tablespoons fresh minced sage and/or rosemary to 1 stick of softened butter and whisk until smooth. This can be made ahead and refrigerated. Just take butter out about 30 minutes prior to serving.

1. Place rack in center of oven, and preheat to 375 degrees F. Spray a 12 mold regular size muffin pan with cooking spray.

2. Combine flours, baking soda, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl and stir well.

3. In a separate bowl, combine milk, honey, eggs, and 1/3 cup oil and whisk well.

4. In a small skillet over medium-low heat, warm 2 teaspoons oil. Add onions and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. Cook for 7-8 minutes, or until tender and lightly caramelized. Remove from heat. 

5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Whisk until combined. Fold in onions, apples, squash, herbs, Cheddar, and walnuts. 

6. Spoon the batter evenly into the into 12 muffin cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing each muffin and placing on a wire rack to cool.

Here are more Food Blogga recipes you might like to add to your Thanksgiving bread basket:
Dill and Beer Bread
Persimmon and Date Bread
Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Bread
Date, Fennel, and Pistachio Scones

Here are more wonderful baked goods featuring butternut squash:
Butternut Brioche recipe at Wild Yeast
Butternut Squash Bread recipe at Dine and Dish
Butternut Squash Cake recipe at Food and Style
Butternut Squash Muffins with Crumbs and Cloves recipe at A Southern Grace
Jamie Oliver's Butternut Squash Muffins with Frosty Tops at Under the High Chair