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Pepita Crunch

1 large egg white (reserve yolk)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1⁄2 cup pepitas

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white and 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar. Add the pepitas, tossing to coat well with the egg/sugar mixture. Pour into the prepared cookie sheet and spread evenly in a single layer. Sprinkle 1 more tablespoon of the sugar over the pepitas. Bake for 7-8 minutes, stir the pepitas with a fork, and bake for another 7 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir the pepitas, sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar, and bake for another 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Break up any clusters with your fingertips and set aside.

Muffins

1⁄2 small navel orange, cut into 6-8 pieces (zest, pith, and flesh)
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, broken into 3-4 pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 cup superfine sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk (reserved from Pepita Crunch)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray a rimmed cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Line 14 muffin cups with paper or foil cupcake liners.

Fit a food processor with the steel blade. With the machine on, drop the orange pieces through the feeder tube. Process until finely chopped, then measure 1⁄4 cup pulp and return it to the processor bowl. (Discard any remaining orange.) Add the cream cheese and process in three 10-second intervals, scraping down the side of the bowl after each process. The mixture should retain some orange texture.

In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces and place in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Stop the machine and add the cream cheese/orange mixture, then mix on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the superfine sugar in a steady stream, then blend in the eggs, the reserved yolk and the vanilla.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, mixing just until blended after each addition.

Portion level scoops of the batter into the prepared pans using a no. 16 ice cream scoop (1⁄4-cup capacity). Sprinkle the top of each muffin with 1 tablespoon of the Pepita Crunch. Be sure to use any sugar that remains in the pan.

Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown and the tops are springy to the touch. To ensure even baking, toward the end of baking time, rotate the pans top to bottom and front to back. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.

Store at room temperature, tightly wrapped in aluminum foil, for up to 3 days. These muffins may be frozen. Makes 14 muffins.

February 2008 Recipe Contest Recipe Contest