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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pistachio Muffins

  "You're a very unpredictable person, Ello."

  I've had two months of unemployment, pool time, shopping, aimless wandering, dead end interviews, and Netflix.  And then I decided that maybe this isn't the place for me long-term, not just yet.  And there it is, I'm headed back to good ol' Wisco, where at least there's a job on the horizon and some school potential.  After that, who knows?  But at least I'll be not knowing with a whole lot of other people just as lost as I am, and my family nearby.  And after two months of well-meaning Zonies, my sweet Aunt, and two little dogs, I'm pretty dang ready for all that again.

  I kind of like that, unpredictable.  Makes me feel like I can do just about anything if I really wanted to.  And no matter where that ends up taking me, at least I can say I did what I really felt was best.  And just maybe all these little and not-so-little decisions/moves will build me up into a well-lived person.  Because I'm figuring out that growth isn't easy, and absolutely does not happen the way you think it would.  And I'm beginning to be ok with that, ok with the idea that sometimes you do need to be knocked out of your comfort zone a few (hundred) times.

  And if that means locking my keys in my car at gas stations, spending hours sprawled on the floor of an empty apartment wondering about life, getting some killer sunburns, bashing up my skin trying to climb a danged tree in a public park, sweating beyond reason in ridiculous heat, having a social life in the negatives, moving back home with my tail between my legs, or just plain ol' trying pistachios and pumpkin together, then so fricken be it.

  And in publishing this post, I have joined the throng of bloggers preemptively posting pumpkin recipes in August.  It's happening.  I didn't even mean for it to happen.  One day I was eating ice cream and the next I wanted a pumpkin cream cheese muffin like my life depended on it.  The Autumn itch came and it came hard.

  I wasn't the world's biggest pumpkin fan before I started food blogging, but somehow that sneaky little orange thing has snuck into my good graces.  I'm craving it now goshdangit when did this happen?

  But what's done is done.  One of the treats that helped along with this conversion is the infamous pumpkin cream cheese combo, specifically this muffin recipe from the awesomesauce site of Annie's Eats.  Back in the day this woman could've posted horse brain porridge and I probably would've tried making it.  I followed her site religiously starting at something like 16, and I got the thrill of my life when she sincerely thanked me for a comment.  I realize now that it's ladies like her that I went through my fan craze-dom with.  While most girls were arguing over Team Edward/Jacob and stalking the Jonas Brothers, I was posting daily gush-y comments and writing innocuous but perhaps over-the-top emails to some of my favorite food bloggers.  And while that's now remarkably embarrassing, Annie is still great, and to this day I know exactly where to go when I need a reliable recipe and dinner ideas.

  These muffins stuck in my memory because they did not stay in my fridge for very long.  That's a mark of a good recipe.

  My only tiny stitch with pumpkin is that sometimes it needs a bit of texture.  It makes things really moist and cake-y and that's beautiful, but I like a little somethin' extra.  Enter pistachios.  Trader Joe's saved me the sore fingertips with their pre-shelled pistachios, so I just picked up a few other ingredients and went to town.  Er...back to the kitchen, to make muffins.

  Words are weird.

  Be ye warned that you should probably assemble the cream cheese log the night before you plan to make these, it needs to be pretty sufficiently chilled to hold up in the oven.  Also, apparently these are a Starbucks knockoff?  I don't browse their treats much when I'm there so I'm not sure, but hey!  DIY, there ya go.

  These are the kind of breakfast treats that aren't so much muffins as they are outside-in cupcakes.  We have a spiced-up nutty pumpkin batter housing a circle of cream cheese/powdered sugar, which is then topped with a delightful streusel and more pistachios.

  And it so works.

  After indulging myself with thirds during an Ugly Betty binge (I don't even know), my Aunt tried one.  She just sighed and said, "Will you just open your own bakery already?"

  So I'd better get on that, I guess.  An unpredictable bakery, where you never know what you're going to get because you don't know what idea the baker felt like making a reality that day.

  That's me.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pistachio Muffins
Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients for the filling:
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Ingredients for the muffins:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • Pistachios for topping

To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap, top with another piece of plastic wrap and use that to shape it into a log about 1½-inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log and reinforce with a piece of foil.  Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours (I highly recommend leaving it overnight for best results).

To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line a muffin pan with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda.  In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree, and oil.  Mix on medium-low speed until blended.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until it's almost incorporated.  Remove bowl from mixer and fold in the pistachios.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend.  Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender, two forks, or quick fingers until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.  Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons).  Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 12 equal pieces.  Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well.  Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely.  Distribute the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells, and press pistachios on top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the muffin part comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

Sources: adapted from Annie's Eats, who adapted it from BakeSpace