Settling into winter: muffins and soup


Now that the long, LONG Presidential election process has finally drawn to a star-spangled conclusion, let’s all take a big breath, let it out slowly, and RELAX. Winter’s here, and it’s a great time to settle in with some simple comfort food: soup and muffins.

I admit, I’ve never been a great soup-maker. Bread, yes. Cookies and cake and pizza, fine. Stir-fries and curries, stew and anything on the grill, I’m in my element. But somehow, the fine art of soup preparation has thus far escaped me.

The exception is three soups that I’ve managed to nail, and feel comfortable serving in public. All three are similar, which you’ll deduce from their names: Creamy Tomato; Cream of Broccoli; and Pumpkin soup.

Fry onions. Add broth and the veggie of choice, and simmer. Thicken with flour, if desired. Add herbs/spices as directed, plus milk or cream. Get out my favorite tool, the stick blender, and purée. All of this I can handle.

It’s the chef’s art of the perfectly diced carrot, the bouquet garni, the tasting, adjusting seasoning, adding a soupçon of this and a pinch of that… I don’t get it. But I don’t have to, so long as I have my three never-fail favorites.

I’ve also discovered that all three play nicely with oatmeal muffins. There’s something about the very slightly sweet, vaguely nutty flavor of oats that complements anything in the vegetable family. Moist and tender, a pat of butter takes these oven-warm muffins to a new level. And served with soup, they make the perfect light lunch.

Are you a soup wannabe? Try this Pumpkin Soup, a curry-scented, cayenne-heated toast to cold weather. While the soup’s simmering, make The Simplest Muffins to serve alongside; they’ll go from mixing bowl to soup-side in less than 30 minutes.


First, sauté onions and garlic in butter, till the onions are golden.


Add spices, and cook for a couple of minutes, to bring out the spices’ flavor. Then pour in chicken stock…


…and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.


Stir in canned pumpkin, then milk. Heat the soup for about 5 minutes without letting it boil.


Purée with a stick blender; or transfer to a food processor or blender, and process till smooth.

If you have enough mental coordination, you can get the muffins into the oven while the soup is doing its 20-minute simmer.


Combine the dry ingredients; mix well.


Put the milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla into a bowl or cup. A measuring cup works well here (I like my Perfect Beaker), as you can measure the milk and oil into it before adding the eggs. You may also choose to use softened butter in place of the oil; if so, just add it to the dry ingredients when you add the milk mixture.


Whisk to combine.


Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just till combined.


You’ll have a thick batter.


I like to sprinkle coarse white sugar, mixed with cinnamon, on top of the muffins before baking. Two tablespoons of sugar shaken in a jar with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon makes just the right amount.


Line a muffin pan with papers, and grease the papers. This prevents the papers from sticking to the muffins—SO annoying.


A muffin scoop makes short (and mess-free) work of dolloping the batter into the cups.


Fill the muffin cups fairly full, though not to overflowing.


Sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar.


And bake till they’re a light, golden brown.


Remove from the oven, and tilt in the pan to cool.


What a nice-looking muffin, eh?


Lovely, craggy blonde interior.


Soup’s on!

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipes for Pumpkin Soup and The Simplest Muffins.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: 7th Avenue Donut Shop, Brooklyn, NY: Homemade bran muffin, $1.25

Bake at home: Homemade oatmeal muffin, 19¢

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks so much for bringing this to our attention, Melissa! A couple of the recipes had name changes since this article was written — all of the links have now been updated. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  1. shni

    I made this combo last night and loved it. I didn’t have a full can of pumpkin (made TWO batches of Harvest Pumpkin Scones last weekend), so I added a large chopped potato with the broth to simmer and used the pumpkin I had left. It still had a great pumpkin flavor, so I will be adding this to my list of recipes that I pull out when I need to use up the rest of a can of pumpkin. Yea!

  2. Donna

    I made the Velvet Pumpkin Soup and Oatmeal Muffins for supper last night, and hubby came in, from outside, sniffing the air! Yesterday was the first really cool day we’ve experienced this Fall, so far, high 30’s night before last; so it was time for comfort food recipes.

    This was a terrific combination, both of which are flexible enough to allow variations. In the soup, I used half hot curry and half sweet curry, because I love the heat; and I used some whole milk. I would think you could use milk, evaporated skim milk, half and half or fat free half and half and still get a good result. I imagine, since most of the flavor comes from the spices and the veggies, you could probably reduce the butter a bit too. The muffins were yummy, and I can see a whole myriad of variations for them!

    Anyway, thanks for the great recipes! These are going with us on our next camping trip for sure!

    Thanks for the evocative description, Donna – glad the recipes spoke to you! PJH

  3. Alma

    I made the muffins and pumpkin soup this week and they were spot on. Just a slight kick to the soup and the muffins were a perfect match. I did toast some pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on top of each serving of soup. It looked very professional.
    I love these blogs, they are very helpful.
    Also, I can’t find the blog for your Fudge Brownies, but anyone looking for the most perfect brownie, this is the one. I have made more recipes for brownies than I can count, and this recipe has just replaced all of them. But, be prepared you won’t be able to keep your hand out of the pan until you have eaten all of them.

  4. Marilyn Ballmann

    These mufins are fantastic. I just made some today because we have a storm going on I did not have the soup but thats my next step. I am going to bake some of these muffins and send them to my adopted soldiers in afghanistan I am sure that they will enjoy.
    Army Mom

  5. Jo Maguire

    I made the creamy tomato soup last night and it is outstanding! And so easy from ingredients that I always have on hand. I served it with warm cheddar biscuits — delicious!

    Thanks for the terrific blog. I always find interesting recipes and suggestions and very much enjoy your writing style, PJ.

    Thanks, Jo – I do love that tomato soup, too. It’s just so… comforting, isn’t it? Weather here is expected to go below zero tonight – maybe I’d better make some for tomorrow! PJH


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