August 10, 2011

Chocolate chocolate-chip muffins

For several recent summers, we would take a trip to the Bahamas (I am such a creature of habit).  The beaches are great but one of the things I actually looked forward to a lot was eating one of the hotel's chocolate muffins for breakfast most mornings.  They were oversize cakes in essence - moist and chocolaty, with a crisp top crust and just enough bits of actual chocolate running through the center.  So to pay homage to that lovely muffin, I decided to try a batch of chocolate chocolate-chip muffins at home.
I wish I'd thought to take a picture of those muffins from the Bahamas to show you.  Better yet, I wish I'd had the courage to ask someone for the recipe.  I actually thought about it but I'm pretty sure any such request would've been turned down.  I really wish I could get my hands on that recipe because to be honest, these muffins I made at home were quite nice shortly out of the oven with the warm chocolate chips being particularly tasty but they dried out rather quickly and the chocolate chips hardened when cooled. 
If I venture to make these muffins again in the future, I'd try doing a few things differently.  I'd add a bit more moisture by increasing the amount of buttermilk in the recipe and chop up some chocolate instead of using chocolate chips, which resist melting and sort of re-solidifies (I was trying to make life a little easier by using the chocolate chips).  I'd also like to try substituting canola oil for the butter, which should make them moister. 

I very slightly adapted this chocolate chocolate-chip muffin recipe from the King Arthur website.  I'm using buttermilk instead of milk and vinegar that the recipe calls for.  I love making muffins because I get to do it by hand, usually with just 2 big bowls.  It feels kind of rustic and easy-going somehow.

As with any muffin mix, it's about assembling the dry ingredients and the wet ones, then bringing the two together.  This recipe yielded 14 muffins for me but I think I could manage next time to fill the muffin cups even more to make an even dozen.

For the dry ingredients, I sifted cocoa powder (which tends to be very lumpy) and flour, and whisked it together with the brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, a little bit of espresso powder (to heighten the chocolate flavor), and chocolate chips.  This was the first time I'd used brown sugar in a muffin batter.  Brown sugar tends to clump and I used my fingers to break up some of the bigger lumps in the mix.  In the end I still had some brown sugar specks on some of my muffins but it was minor enough to have no impact on the taste.  For the wet ingredients, I whisked together eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted butter. 
I was very surprised at how thick the batter was.  I'm used to much looser or more liquid muffin/cupcake batters.  This made me worry that the cupcakes would come out too dry.  Next time I make these again, I'm going to throw caution to the wind and up the amount of buttermilk I put in the batter.  Better yet, I'd like to try using canola oil in place of the butter.  That should make them a lot more moist.
I scooped the batter into the paper liners and since the batter was thick, I made a bit of a mess trying to fill them up and even out the top.
For me, the muffins took only about 18 minutes to be ready, where a cake tester inserted into them came out clean. 
What I did like about these muffins was the hard, crisp top.  Muffin tops are the best!  I ate one within an hour out of the oven and the inside was tender and the bits of melted chocolate chips were the best part.  On the down side, the muffins dried out rather quickly (I noticed a difference by the end of the day) and when fully cooled, the chocolate chips hardened again.  I'd recommend microwaving the muffins for about 10-15 seconds when eating the next day.  As I mentioned earlier, I would experiment with a bit more buttermilk and/or using oil instead of butter in the recipe next time around.


Chocolate chocolate-chip muffins
Adapted, slightly, from the King Arthur website

- Yields 12 to 14 muffins -

2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa (this will give it that dark color), sifted
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, lightly packed
3/4 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 stick unsalted butter, melted*
1 cup buttermilk*
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

* Original recipe and the batch I made contained 1 cup of buttermilk.  I would experiment with a 1 1/4 cups next time to see if I can achieve a moister muffin.  I would also consider using 1/2 cup of canola oil in place of the butter, again to try to increase the moistness.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a standard muffin pan with paper liners. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, brown sugar, espresso powder (if using), baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips.  Try to break up any large lumps of brown sugar in the mix.

In another large bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla together.  Add the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring just enough to combine. 

Scoop the batter into the lined muffin tins.  You can fill these up generously into the 12 muffin cups.  Bake for approximately 18-20 minutes or until a cake tested inserted into a muffin comes out clean.  Let muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before placing them on a cooling rack to cool completely. 

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