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Beth Hensperger's Sweet Potato Muffins

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Sometimes a lady just wants to make a batch of muffins without a pad of paper and a pen and a scale and a million bowls and all the other accouterments that have been necessary in the kitchen for the past year and a half. Sometimes, too, a lady just wants to make a batch of muffins without thinking about whole grains and alternative sugars and all the other buzz words of the contemporary food world. And sometimes, that same lady just feels like baking something that one is going to be able to eat within the hour.

A couple of sweet potatoes had been gathering dust on my counter for weeks. Last Friday, in a fit of kitchen activity (a pathetic attempt at the nirvana that is this), I roasted them but then didn't use them in any meal. They sat in the fridge over the weekend, while Hugo - who's at home with bronchitis - labored through the worst days of the fever. His appetite was nearly nonexistent, but I wanted to get some calories into him. Then it hit me. Muffins! Sweet potato muffins.

These ones, adapted from a recipe by Beth Hensperger, are about as straightforward as they get. You make a simple, lumpy batter out of mashed sweet potatoes, milk, oil and eggs, baking powder, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg, and a little sugar. Dollop this into the muffins tins and then you sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar. The muffins bake up into very tender, very moist specimens, with a lovely little crunch from the sugar on top. With just cinnamon and nutmeg flavoring the batter, you can really taste the sweet potatoes' earthy flavor. I folded walnuts into the butter, which I loved, but Hugo told me he didn't like them. For what that's worth.

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The whole thing, from making the batter to sitting down and eating them, took just under an hour. And unlike some muffins that deteriorate within a day, these ones keep well for the next day (I just left them on the counter, in fact), when they make an excellent breakfast. You know how some (most?) muffins are actually just cake? These ones are decidedly not cake. They aren't too rich or too sweet, despite the topping. Plus, they were so, so easy.

And that's all I want these days.

Beth Hensperger's Sweet Potato Muffins
Makes 12

Topping:
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Batter:
2 sweet potatoes, roasted until soft and cooled
1 3/4 cups/220 grams all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup/100 grams sugar
1/2 cup/120 ml vegetable oil
1/2 cup/120 ml milk
1/2 cup/65 grams chopped pecans or walnuts

1. To make the topping, in a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Spray 12 standard muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray, or butter them, or line them with baking papers.

3. In a bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and salt.

4. In another bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, and milk, and whisk until smooth and well-combined. Mash the cooled sweet potatoes until relatively smooth and add to the oil mixture. Continue whisking until completely blended. Add the flour mixture and stir until just evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy. Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the nuts until just evenly distributed, no more than a few strokes. Do not overmix.

5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the muffin tops evenly with the topping. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Unmold the muffins and serve them warm or at room temperature. The muffins will keep for one additional day. Once fully cooled, they can also be frozen.