Settling into winter: muffins and soup

WHEW!

Now that the long, LONG Presidential election process has finally drawn to a star-spangled conclusion, let’s all take a big breath, let it out slowly, and RELAX. Winter’s here, and it’s a great time to settle in with some simple comfort food: soup and muffins.

I admit, I’ve never been a great soup-maker. Bread, yes. Cookies and cake and pizza, fine. Stir-fries and curries, stew and anything on the grill, I’m in my element. But somehow, the fine art of soup preparation has thus far escaped me.

The exception is three soups that I’ve managed to nail, and feel comfortable serving in public. All three are similar, which you’ll deduce from their names: Creamy Tomato; Cream of Broccoli; and Velvet Pumpkin.

Fry onions. Add broth and the veggie of choice, and simmer. Thicken with flour, if desired. Add herbs/spices as directed, plus milk or cream. Get out my favorite tool, the stick blender, and purée. All of this I can handle.

It’s the chef’s art of the perfectly diced carrot, the bouquet garni, the tasting, adjusting seasoning, adding a soupçon of this and a pinch of that… I don’t get it. But I don’t have to, so long as I have my three never-fail favorites.

I’ve also discovered that all three play nicely with oatmeal muffins. There’s something about the very slightly sweet, vaguely nutty flavor of oats that complements anything in the vegetable family. Moist and tender, a pat of butter takes these oven-warm muffins to a new level. And served with soup, they make the perfect light lunch.

Are you a soup wannabe? Try this Velvet Pumpkin Soup, a curry-scented, cayenne-heated toast to cold weather. While the soup’s simmering, make easy oatmeal muffins to serve alongside; they’ll go from mixing bowl to soup-side in less than 30 minutes.

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First, sauté onions and garlic in butter, till the onions are golden.

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Add spices, and cook for a couple of minutes, to bring out the spices’ flavor. Then pour in chicken stock…

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…and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.

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Stir in canned pumpkin, then milk. Heat the soup for about 5 minutes without letting it boil.

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Purée with a stick blender; or transfer to a food processor or blender, and process till smooth.

If you have enough mental coordination, you can get the muffins into the oven while the soup is doing its 20-minute simmer.

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Combine the dry ingredients; mix well.

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Put the milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla into a bowl or cup. A measuring cup works well here (I like my Perfect Beaker), as you can measure the milk and oil into it before adding the eggs. You may also choose to use softened butter in place of the oil; if so, just add it to the dry ingredients when you add the milk mixture.

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Whisk to combine.

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Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just till combined.

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You’ll have a thick batter.

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I like to sprinkle coarse white sugar, mixed with cinnamon, on top of the muffins before baking. Two tablespoons of sugar shaken in a jar with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon makes just the right amount.

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Line a muffin pan with papers, and grease the papers. This prevents the papers from sticking to the muffins—SO annoying.

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A muffin scoop makes short (and mess-free) work of dolloping the batter into the cups.

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Fill the muffin cups fairly full, though not to overflowing.

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Sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar.

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And bake till they’re a light, golden brown.

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Remove from the oven, and tilt in the pan to cool.

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What a nice-looking muffin, eh?

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Lovely, craggy blonde interior.

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Soup’s on!

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Velvet Pumpkin Soup with Oatmeal Muffins.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: 7th Avenue Donut Shop, Brooklyn, NY: Homemade bran muffin, $1.25

Bake at home: Homemade oatmeal muffin, 19¢

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Erik

    First, let me compliment you on your photography. Those are some gorgeous pictures!
    Second, it sounds as though we have opposite talents: I have never managed to bake much of anything (cornbread is my only standard, no fail recipe; and I used to make decent bundt cakes), but soups are second nature to me.
    The pumpkin soup recipe sounds really yummy. I really enjoy curry or cumin with pumpkin, or pretty much any squash. I am not crazy about using canned pumpkin as I prefer to roast my own, but that is obviously a fair bit more work. Just breaking into the pumpkin is effort enough to relegate it to a once-a-year event :)

    Well, I see from your URL that you’re a soup guy—I envy you! I understand about roasting your own pumpkin, but I figured most people would rather take the canned route… Thanks for connecting. PJH

    Reply
  2. Kay

    I have made the almost exact same soup based on a ‘Libby’s’ recipe for a long time.

    I replace the canned pumping by fresh and ‘roast’ it in the microwave. I have also used cream instead of the evaporated milk, which is quite nice.

    Lastly I process it in the blender and strain it through a fine mesh strainer. It’s flawless.

    It has always been a success and we have a friend that usually asks to have the pot to lick ;)

    Hi Kay,
    The roasting suggestion sounds delish! Thanks for sharing. Let us know when the pot is ready, we’ll bring our spoons and napkins for messy faces from licking! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  3. Lee

    Love pumpkin/curry combo. Can I use something besides canned milk? Which do you recommend – whole milk, half-half, cream?? What about whole wheat in the muffins? Soft wheat? Part whole wheat/part white? We’ve been having a different soup/bread combo every night this week and I’m anxious to try this one!

    I’d give 1/2 & 1/2 a try if you’d like to use fresh milk. Play with the flour combos in the muffins, just rmember that whole grain flour will take up more of the liquid. You may need to adjust a bit. Have fun. Frank from KAF.

    Reply
  4. Rachel

    Do you think grated apple could be added to the muffins? I would like to make an oatmeal muffin for breakfast and adding fruit makes them sound more breakfast-y. I know adding raisins won’t change things but I have a few apples that need used.

    Sure, Rachel, give it a try; I’d reduce the milk somewhat. Not sure how much, but the apples will definitely add moisture. You might also then want to add 1/2 teaspoon or so cinnamon to the muffin batter, maybe a pinch of ginger and nutmeg. Let us know how they come out – sounds yummy. PJH

    Reply
  5. Lucy

    Wonderful combination of textures and flavors, and clearly those who wish to imbibe could add extra spices. Highest compliments on a recipe that could be done anytime from the pantry…which goes right along with the settling aspects of winter or simply getting home from work…which i am going to do this evening. Thank you for making my Thursday.
    I do encourage any leftover soup be drunk cold the next day for breakfast…one of my son’s makes a similar soup and we love it cold.

    Reply
  6. Elisabeth

    I have another muffin-related question. A cafe near me makes the most to-die-for cranberry muffins-they are tart and fresh and sweet and cakey, with that pleasantly sticky top (as in, no topping or anything-it seems just to be a phenomenon with bought muffins I have yet to achieve personally). I make the crunchy orange muffins and they turned out so dry as to be unbearable, as well as crumby/sconelike rather than cakey. Any hints or recipes for my perfect muffin? Thanks! Try adding an extra tablespoon or two of oil to the recipe. Molly@KAF

    Or see if you have better luck with these Fancy Department Store Muffins, Elisabeth. If you do, you can substitute cranberries and add some orange zest to the batter. – PJH

    Reply
  7. Chiot's Run

    Oh, how I love pureed soup on a cold day. I prefer my soup with a side of crusty bread though, perhaps with some piquant cheese melted on top.

    The muffins would be great for breakfast though, I always sprinkle that coarse raw sugar on the tops of any muffing or quick bread I make, it adds such a great texture!

    Reply
  8. Trisha

    PJ, I want to send cookies to my son-in-law, stationed in Afghanistan. It will take 2 weeks for the cookies to arrive. What cookies can I bake that won’t get stale in that time? Would Vanilla Dreams work? What makes a long-keeping cookie?

    Trisha, biscotti are by far your best bet. They’re tasty, easy, travel well, and keep forever, because they’re dry—that’s the secret of a cookie that keeps well. Easily customizable to taste, too. Start with American-Style Vanilla Biscotti, and add chips, dried fruit, etc. to taste. Good luck – I think your son-in-law will like them. PJH

    Reply
  9. Jo Maguire

    I made the creamy tomato soup last night and it is outstanding! And so easy from ingredients that I always have on hand. I served it with warm cheddar biscuits — delicious!

    Thanks for the terrific blog. I always find interesting recipes and suggestions and very much enjoy your writing style, PJ.

    Thanks, Jo – I do love that tomato soup, too. It’s just so… comforting, isn’t it? Weather here is expected to go below zero tonight – maybe I’d better make some for tomorrow! PJH

    Reply
  10. Marilyn Ballmann

    Hi
    These mufins are fantastic. I just made some today because we have a storm going on I did not have the soup but thats my next step. I am going to bake some of these muffins and send them to my adopted soldiers in afghanistan I am sure that they will enjoy.
    Army Mom

    Reply
  11. Alma

    I made the muffins and pumpkin soup this week and they were spot on. Just a slight kick to the soup and the muffins were a perfect match. I did toast some pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on top of each serving of soup. It looked very professional.
    I love these blogs, they are very helpful.
    Also, I can’t find the blog for your Fudge Brownies, but anyone looking for the most perfect brownie, this is the one. I have made more recipes for brownies than I can count, and this recipe has just replaced all of them. But, be prepared you won’t be able to keep your hand out of the pan until you have eaten all of them.

    Reply
  12. Donna

    I made the Velvet Pumpkin Soup and Oatmeal Muffins for supper last night, and hubby came in, from outside, sniffing the air! Yesterday was the first really cool day we’ve experienced this Fall, so far, high 30’s night before last; so it was time for comfort food recipes.

    This was a terrific combination, both of which are flexible enough to allow variations. In the soup, I used half hot curry and half sweet curry, because I love the heat; and I used some whole milk. I would think you could use milk, evaporated skim milk, half and half or fat free half and half and still get a good result. I imagine, since most of the flavor comes from the spices and the veggies, you could probably reduce the butter a bit too. The muffins were yummy, and I can see a whole myriad of variations for them!

    Anyway, thanks for the great recipes! These are going with us on our next camping trip for sure!

    Thanks for the evocative description, Donna – glad the recipes spoke to you! PJH

    Reply
  13. shni

    I made this combo last night and loved it. I didn’t have a full can of pumpkin (made TWO batches of Harvest Pumpkin Scones last weekend), so I added a large chopped potato with the broth to simmer and used the pumpkin I had left. It still had a great pumpkin flavor, so I will be adding this to my list of recipes that I pull out when I need to use up the rest of a can of pumpkin. Yea!

    Reply

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