By Angela McRae, The Shopper Kitchen

The joke last fall was that an automotive place was offering pumpkin spice oil changes. This fall the joke—at least I think it was a joke—was that some Lutheran church was offering pumpkin spice communion. A friend and I talked about switching denominations, because some of us take our pumpkin spice very, very seriously.

I can’t recall exactly when pumpkin spice flavoring first became a culinary celebrity, but it’s definitely reached that status now. I have pumpkin spice coffee creamer, I use Pumpkin Pie Chapstick, and I even tried some pumpkin spice candy bars that, sadly, did not live up to their pumpkin promise.

For November, however, I’m happy to continue to try many of the new pumpkin products and recipes that I come across, and I have been pleased to see an uptick in the number of pumpkin recipes in food magazines this year. One thing I did not find, though, was a recipe for a quick bread featuring pumpkin combined with another favorite food flavor, salted caramel.

From ice cream to brownies and even tea bags, salted caramel-flavored products seem to be enjoying their 15 minutes of fame. I do hate to miss out on a food trend, so I experimented with a new muffin recipe, drizzled some caramel and sea salt on top, and voila, a new fall treat.

These would also be great as a breakfast bread on Thanksgiving morning, and baking them in cupcake baking cups makes them grab-and-go convenient for anyone who might be eating on the run this month.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, and I’m so thankful for all the lovely new readers I’ve met through The Shopper Kitchen this year. Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Sea Salt & Caramel Topping
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1-1/2 sticks butter, softened
1-1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
3/4 cup chopped pecans
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling
1 cup caramel-flavored baking chips (I used Ghirardelli)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line two muffin pans with 18 cupcake baking cups.

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice and set aside. In another large bowl, use a hand mixer to combine the butter and brown sugar till blended well. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the can of pumpkin and beat well. Using lowest speed of mixer, add the flour mixture and blend until combined.

Use an ice cream scoop to fill the baking cups with batter (which will be thick!), filling each cup 3/4 full. Sprinkle pecans and a pinch of sea salt over each. Bake for 28-30 minutes, just until muffins are firm. Let muffins cool completely. Melt caramels according to package directions and use a spoon or piping bag to drizzle caramel over top of muffins. Yields 18 muffins.