It has always been difficult for me to comprehend how Truman Capote wrote both “In Cold Blood” — the horrifying story of the senseless murder of a family in rural Kansas — and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” — the romantic adventures of a beautiful young ingenue named Holly Golightly. Capote was clearly an author of diverse skills.
But the work of his that I have always loved the best is an autobiographical short story he wrote in 1956, “A Christmas Memory.”
When he was a young child Truman was sent to live with his mother’s poor relatives in Alabama, and he became best friends with an elderly distant cousin named Sook. Truman and Sook loved Christmas; they eagerly awaited the day in November when the weather turned cool and crisp and signaled the perfect time: “Oh my,” she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane, “it’s fruitcake weather!”
And off they would go, to gather the ingredients to bake their beloved fruitcake, which they sent to their friends and to President Roosevelt.
I can understand their enthusiasm. November marks the beginning of the holiday season, when tradition takes hold of us more than at any other time of the year. Sadly, not many of us are fruitcake bakers any more. While I love fruitcake and have baked many loaves in my time, it is an arduous, expensive, multi-day process. Better to start a simpler baking tradition, like pumpkin muffins.
These muffins, from chef Ellie Krieger, are filled with healthful ingredients and are low in fat. They make for a delicious, filling breakfast with a cup of hot coffee. Daughter Elizabeth tasted one last night and suggested adding chopped dates next time, which I think is an excellent idea.
As always with tempting, albeit virtuous, baked goods, freeze what you don’t eat the first day and microwave them as needed.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp. unsulphered molasses
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together all-purpose and whole wheat pastry flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.
In a large bowl, whisk brown sugar, molasses, oil and one egg until combined. Add the other egg and whisk well. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla.
Whisk in the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk until just combined.
Pour batter into prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles.
Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one muffin comes out clean. Let cool on rack in pan for 15 minutes, then remove from muffin pan and cool completely on rack.
Makes 12 muffins
WW PP per muffin: 5