Aspen, Colorado and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Our vacation last week kicked off in Aspen with an all-day trail run/hike around the Maroon Bells.  The views are dramatic and the peaks are steep... and we learned a lesson the hard way about winging it when trail running in the mountains and ended up on an adventure that lasted three times as long as we originally planned.

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Thankfully, I had greedily stashed a delicious and filling pumpkin chocolate chip muffin in my backpack from the Aspen Farmer's Market earlier that morning.  The plan was to just peruse the market rather than to buy, but I couldn't resist the table of muffins and pastries.  I think about about hour four of running, Rob wished he hadn't resisted (don't worry, I set aside my only child tendencies and shared the muffin).

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Pumpkin is one of my favorite foods.  I look forward to fall each year - pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, pumpkin lattés.  After savoring the muffin on our Aspen adventure, I had to try my hand an recreating the muffins at home.  The recipe I used comes from the Baking from the Heart cookbook and the contributor of this particular recipe is Joanna Chang of Flour Cafe & Bakery in Boston fame (I've posted about her banana bread here).  These take a matter of minutes to put together and make a great treat for breakfast (yes, I'll eat a muffin which chocolate chips for breakfast... I can tell you are judging).

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The only significant change I made to the recipe was inspired by this month's Fine Cooking magazine, which included an article on baking with olive oil.  While the magazine cautions against substituting olive oil for butter when the butter is to be creamed, I found that it worked extremely well in this instance - the resulting muffins were surprisingly light and flavorful.  If you'd prefer to only use butter, the original recipe called for only 1/2 cup.  Happy fall!

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Adapted from Baking from the Heart

Yield = 1 dozen muffins 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup solid packed, canned pumpkin puree (1 15-ounce can)

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Place rack in the middle of the oven. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or spray each cup with a non-stick vegetable spray.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, ground spices, and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and pumpkin puree in three additions, beginning with the flour mixture.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  

Fill the muffin cups evenly with the batter using two spoons or an ice cream scoop.  Place muffins in the oven and bake for about 18 -20 minutes, or until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean.  Place the muffins on a wire rack to cool.

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