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Butternut Squash Muffins

When everything is Pumpkin, be different and make butternut squash muffins!  These are just as good, have tons of autumn flavor, and don’t use canned and preserved pumpkin.  

Three butternut squash muffins sitting on a white marble counter

The first thing I bought on my first trip back to New York since moving to Israel was a pumpkin muffin.  

It was mid-October, the air was crisp, and the muffin tasted just as good as I remembered it. 

That was the first autumn I wasn’t homesick since moving.

I get homesick every October when the leaves are turning on the East Coast and the pumpkin craze is at peak.  

During this time, I crave anything autumn, praying for crisp air, look an excuse to wear my sweaters, and make soup. 

Everywhere I go, I look for hints of color I would see everywhere while living in New York.  Most of all, I miss the flavors.

Pumpkin pie has always been my favorite, so naturally, I love everything pumpkin. Living in New York I would relish in the pumpkin craze.

Not having easy access to my pumpkin treats, or even pumpkin puree, I did the next next thing.  

I made butternut squash puree, butternut squash bread, and these butternut squash muffins.  

I’ve even combined my pumpkin muffins and my butternut squash muffins.

The result was butternut squash muffins topped with strussel  and drizzled with icing.

Both the bread and these butternut squash muffins are bursting with delicious autumn flavors that I was desperately longing for after my trip back to the East Coast was canceled.

It helped a little.

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

20% of all profits are donated to a women’s shelter to support the fight against domestic violence.

what you need

Dry measuring cups and spoons
Liquid measuring cup
Whisk
Rubber spatula
Ladle
Mixing bowl
Standard 12-cup muffin tin
Muffin paper
Cooling rack

MUFFINS VS CUPCAKES

You may be surprised to learn that the difference between muffins and cupcakes is actually up for debate.  In fact, every time I make muffins, my family argues about what makes a muffin a muffin and a cupcake a cupcake. 

I used to think that muffins are very large and much denser than cupcakes, but I’ve also had muffins that weren’t as big or heavy.

So, what makes a muffin a muffin and a cupcake a cupcake?  Frosting.  Yup, that is the only consistent difference.  Cupcakes have frosting and muffins don’t.

I also read that muffins have a quick bread type of batter, whereas cupcakes use cake batter. While this makes sense, I’ve seen all kinds of batters used for cupcakes so I’m not sure I buy it.

HOW TO MEASURE FLOUR AND OTHER DRY INGREDIENTS

Using a dry measuring cup, scoop ingredients from the bag or spoon them into the cup.  Next, level off the ingredient by removing the excess with an upside-down butter knife.

The one exception to this is brown sugar.  Brown sugar should be packed down and then any excess should be scraped off as well.

DRY VS LIQUID MEASURING CUP

Ever wonder why measuring spoons often come with a set of measuring cups?  I used to.  I didn’t see why we needed a set when we could have one large measuring cup. 

After a quick search, I had my answer.  I discovered that the large measuring cup is used for liquids, whereas the set is used for dry ingredients.

As it turns out, if you try to measure dry ingredients with a liquid cup, the measurements get messed up. 

First, you pour the flour or cocoa in, next you shake it around to get it level, and then you add more. 

By shaking it, you are causing the powder to settle, and when you add more, you end up using more than called for.

WHY SIFT FLOUR and Other Powder Ingredients

There are a number of benefits to sifting flour and other ingredients like cocoa ingredients: 

It removes any unwanted debris and you can get a more accurate measurement than when packed tight in a bag. 

It also removes any lumps that can get into the batter and be hard to break up later, or be missed altogether before baking.

If you sift the powdered ingredients together, it helps combine them and mix more evenly with other dry ingredients like sugar.

BAKING WITH OIL

In general, oil in baked goods makes for a superior texture than those made with butter.  

Oil cakes tend to bake up taller with a better crumb. They also stay moist and tender far longer than recipes made with butter.

Furthermore, since oil is lighter than butter, the texture of oil cakes is lighter too. Also, given that oil is 100% fat while most American butter is 15% water, it creates a more tender crumb.

This is due to the fact that the extra water strengthens the gluten, resulting in a crumb that’s more dense.

Which Type Of Oil to Use

I use neutral oils like canola oil, safflower oil, and vegetable oil.  However, it’s not unheard of for oils with stronger flavors like olive oil or coconut oil to be used.

If using olive oil, I recommend using pure olive oil for its milder flavor and higher smoking point.

Baking with Oil Conversion Chart

If you want to convert your butter recipes to oil recipes, check out my baking with oil butter to oil conversion chart.

Understanding Sugar

Sugar may seem very basic if you’ve baked before, but I’ve been asked about it before, so I’m explaining.

There are many different types of sugar, including white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla sugar, powdered sugar, turbinado sugar, and demerara sugar.

When a recipe – any recipe, not just mine – says “sugar” without specifying anything else, it is regular white sugar.

White Sugar

White sugar (sometimes called granulated sugar, table sugar, or white granulated sugar) is made of either beet sugar or cane sugar, which has undergone a refining process.

It is the easiest to find and most commonly used.

Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added to it.

It is commonly used in chocolate chip cookie recipes, and it’s rare for a recipe that calls for brown sugar not to also call for white sugar as well.

When a recipe calls for “brown sugar” but doesn’t specify what type (light or dark), it is referring to light brown sugar.

In my recipes, you can use whatever type of brown sugar you have on hand whether it is dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, or demerara sugar – which is very common in Israel.

Just keep in mind that the flavor and color will be slightly different depending on what you choose to use.

Turbinado Sugar

Turbinado sugar is better known as “raw sugar”. But, despite this name, the sugar is not really “raw.”

Instead, it’s partially refined sugar that retains some of the original molasses.

The term “raw sugar” may also give off the impression that it is somehow healthier.

In reality, turbinado sugar is nutritionally similar to white sugar.

Demerara Sugar

Demerara sugar is very popular in Israel and is especially delicious in tea but is also used for baking.

Unlike white sugar, demerara sugar undergoes minimal processing and retains some vitamins and mineral.

However, it is still not much healthier than white sugar.

Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla sugar is not very common in the States. However, it is common in Israel and parts of Europe.

This is sugar that sat for an extended period of time with vanilla beans, giving it a vanilla flavor.

Caster Sugar

This type of sugar is common in the United Kingdom.

It has a finer grain than white (granulated) sugar and larger than powdered sugar.

Caster sugar is often called for in recipes for delicate baked goods like meringues, souffles, and sponge cakes.

You can use a 1:1 conversion rate between caster sugar and white (granulated) sugar.

Powdered sugar

Powdered sugar, sometimes known as confectioners’ sugar, is a sugar with a powdered texture.

This sugar is rarely, if ever, used for baking. Instead, it is used for dusting desserts and making frosting and icings.

In some countries, you can also find powdered vanilla sugar. It is made the exact same way regular vanilla sugar is made. However, the sugar used is powdered instead of granulated.

Vanilla Extract vs Vanilla sugar

In my recipes, I don’t specify what kind of vanilla to use.

The reason for this is that in the States, vanilla extract is exclusively used. Meanwhile in Israel, along with many European countries, vanilla sugar is common.

In most, if not all recipes, both vanilla extract and vanilla sugar can be used.

In recipes where vanilla sugar can be used instead of extract, you can replace them 1:1.

Types of Vanilla

Vanilla comes from a pod commonly known as a “vanilla bean”, which comes from the vanilla orchids. Vanilla pod has been used for flavoring since the Aztecs, and was introduced to Europe by a Spanish conquistador, along with cocoa.

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is created by soaking vanilla beans in alcohol for some time. This is the most commonly used type of vanilla.

Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla sugar is common in Europe and some parts of the Middle East, like Israel.  It is made from vanilla beans sitting in sugar, vanilla bean powder mixed with sugar, or sugar mixed with vanilla extract.

In some countries, like Italy, you can also find vanilla powdered sugar which is used for confections.

Vanilla Paste

Vanilla paste is generally a specialty item.  It is a thick paste that contains a blend of the scraped-out vanilla pod seeds and vanilla extract.  You can use it as you do vanilla extract and it will leave flakes of vanilla bean like you see in vanilla bean ice cream.

Imitation Vanilla

Imitation Vanilla, otherwise known as artificial vanilla, is made from synthetic vanilla.  This is the compound that naturally occurs in vanilla beans and gives it its flavor.

Can I use imitation vanilla?

Many will tell you that you should use high quality vanilla, just like they say you should use the best cocoa.  However, most of us will probably not be willing to pay the hefty price that comes with exceptionally high-quality ingredients.

Overall, vanilla is very expensive, so the extract is as well.  So, if you’re not going to get regular quality vanilla extract, you might as well use imitation vanilla.

DO EGGS NEED TO BE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE?

The short answer is “no”.  While a side-by-side comparison shows that baking with eggs at room temperature makes a better crumb, it’s not otherwise noticeable.

What are Eggs used for?

Eggs do three things in most recipes: they help bind the ingredients together, act as a mild leavening agent, and they add moisture.

EGG FREE OPTION

Eggs can be substituted with 1/4 cup of unsweetened apple sauce per egg.  This means for recipes calling for 2 eggs, you’d need 1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce.

The reason applesauce makes a good binder is that it’s high in pectin. Pectin is a naturally occurring starch in fruits and berries that acts as a thickening agent and stabilizer in food.

This happens when combined with sugar and acid (if the fruit or berry isn’t naturally acidic).

Just keep in mind that it may change the flavor slightly.

ARE EGGS DAIRY?

No, eggs are not dairy.  Dairy is milk and any food products made from milk, including cheese, cream, butter, and yogurt. 

So, while eggs are an animal product, they are not dairy. In fact, eggs fall under the protein food group.

BAKING POWDER VS BAKING SODA

I’ve had a number of comments asking me questions about baking soda and baking powder. 

I’ve also noticed that if the wrong one is used, things don’t come out as they should. 

Using baking soda instead of baking powder can give your recipe a terrible metallic taste, while using baking powder instead of baking soda leaves your baked goods looking flat.

BAKING SODA

Baking soda is a leavening agent, which means it helps things rise.  It does this by creating carbon dioxide when it reacts to an acid, such as cream of tartar, lemon juice, yogurt, buttermilk, cocoa, and vinegar. 

When the carbon dioxide is released, it causes the familiar texture and crumb in pancakes, cakes, quick breads, soda bread, and other baked and fried foods.

Baking soda works well with sourdough because sourdough is acidic.  When combined, it makes a lighter product with a less acidic taste, since baking soda is alkaline.

A good rule of thumb is to use around 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per 1 cup of flour.

BAKING POWDER

Baking powder is also a leavening agent and it’s a mixture of baking soda, cream of tartar, and sometimes cornstarch.

Most baking powder sold is double-acting. This means that the leavening occurs in two steps.

The first time it’s activated is when baking powder gets wet, which is why you cannot prepare some batters ahead of time to bake later.

The second time is when the baking powder is exposed to heat.  This happens when the batter is being baked or fried.

Since baking powder already contains an acid, it’s most often used when a recipe does not call for an additional acidic ingredient or too little of one.

A good rule of thumb is to use around 1 teaspoon of baking powder per 1 cup of flour.

WHY SOME RECIPES CALL FOR BOTH

Some recipes call for both baking powder and baking soda when the carbon dioxide created from the acid and baking soda is not enough to leaven the volume of batter in the recipe.  

Too much baking soda gives a terrible metallic taste, so baking powder is added to give it more lift.

WHICH ONE IS STRONGER?

You may have already guessed the answer since baking soda is used to make baking powder, and you need more baking powder per cup of flour. But I’ll tell you anyway.

Baking soda is four times stronger than baking powder.  That’s why you will more often than not see recipes that only call for baking soda rather than recipes that only call for baking powder.

HOW LONG DO THEY LAST?

BAKING SODA

Baking soda is good indefinitely past its best by date, although it can lose potency over time.  A rule of thumb is two years for an unopened package and six months for an opened package.   

However, to be honest, I’ve used very old baking soda with good results.

BAKING POWDER

Like baking soda, baking powder is good indefinitely past its best by date, and can lose its potency over time.  For both opened and unopened, it’s ideal to use it within nine months to a year.

While storing it, make sure to keep it in a dry place and away from humidity.

HOW TO TEST IF IT’S STILL GOOD

BAKING POWDER

To test baking powder, pour 3 tablespoons of warm water into a small bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and stir. If the baking powder is good to use, it should fizz a little.

BAKING SODA

To test baking soda, pour 3 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar into a small bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and stir.  The mixture should rapidly bubble if the soda is fresh.

TROUBLESHOOTING

WHY IS IT TAKING LONGER THAN DESCRIBED TO BAKE?

Over time, the thermostat on ovens gets a little off, causing some ovens to run hot and others to run cool.  This is why recipes tend to say things like “10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.”  So, if it takes you longer than expected, that’s fine, don’t worry about it. Just keep baking until ready.

WHY DID MY RECIPE COME OUT TOO DRY?

Just like some ovens run cool, others run hot.  If your oven runs hot, bake these at a lower temperature.  Ideally, you should get an oven thermometer to know what temperature you’re really baking at.

How to store muffins

Let muffins cool fully. Transfer the muffins to an airtight container lined with a paper towel.  Place a second paper towel on top of the muffins before sealing. 

If using a zip-top plastic bag, line both sides of the bag with paper towels and remove as much air as possible before sealing the top of the bag. 

Store at room temperature for up to 4 days.

How to Freeze muffins

Let muffins cool fully.  Wrap each muffin individually in plastic wrap, then place them in a zip-top bag.

Freeze for up to 2 months.  They will still be safe to eat after two months but their quality begins to degrade. 

When ready to eat, let thaw at room temperature or rewarm gently in a counter top oven or microwave.

SNAFU:

While making this recipe for the first time, I didn’t mix the dry ingredients first, as I often don’t.  I also forgot to check the bottom of the bowl for flour, since this isn’t usually an issue for me. 

However, when I saw the batter wasn’t thickening, I took a plastic spatula and mixed it by hand, finding a huge amount of dry ingredients stuck at the bottom.  When I mixed it in, the batter became lumpy, and because salt didn’t mix in properly it was lacking flavor. 

I figured this out and added the salt, but got a big clump of the original salt when tasting the batter.  Needless to say, I was careful to follow my own instructions to this recipe after that.

Yield: 14 muffins

Butternut Squash Muffins

Three butternut squash muffins sitting on a white marble counter

These muffins are extremely moist and are very similar to pumpkin muffins but are a little healthier since they don't come out of a can.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F or 175°C and set an oven rack in the middle position.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl
  3. Add butternut squash puree, eggs, oil, and water. Make sure not to leave any of the dry mixture at the bottom. Smooth out any lumps you may find.
  4. Use a ladle to pour batter into paper-lined muffin pan cups until about ⅔ full. 
  5. Bake for or 25 to 30 minutes or until tester inserted in centers comes out clean.
  6. Let cool for 10 minutes before moving to cooling rack.

Notes

*If you don't have or want to make pumpkin spice, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1
teaspoon ginger, and ½ teaspoon cloves

**Chick here to jump to notes on oil

Recommended Products

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

14

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 184Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 27mgSodium: 177mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 1gSugar: 22gProtein: 2g

Did you make this recipe?

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