March 6, 2012

Orange muffins with bittersweet chocolate chunks

Hello, there!  I'm here with a muffin recipe today.  These are orange chocolate muffins.  They are flavored with fresh orange juice and zest, and studded with bits of bittersweet chocolate chunks.
A few months ago, I noticed that Serious Eats runs a weekly series called, "Share Your Sweets," where they ask home bakers to submit a picture and description of something they've baked.  The topic changes each week and I've sent in a few things; it's neat to see something you cooked and a picture you took on a website other than your own!  A while back, the topic was muffins and I saw these orange and chocolate muffins submitted by Sara at her blog, Cupcake Muffin that appealed to me.  I bookmarked the recipe and I've been meaning to try it for a long time.  I mean, orange and chocolate is one of my all-time favorite classic combinations.
I like this recipe for several reasons.  First, a good amount of orange juice and zest infuse the muffins with flavor but the effect is on the lighter side as opposed to a somewhat heftier, sweeter product you'd get from, say, most banana muffins.  You can keep things light by mixing in fruit like cranberries and some nuts (which is what the origin of this recipe - from Cooking Light - calls for) but I love the bittersweet chocolate Sara used because, frankly, I just love chocolate and that's what drew me to the recipe in the first place.  With the bittersweet chocolate, the overall effect is a little more richness but it's not overly sweet.  It's a great way to consume your daily intake of dark chocolate!  These muffin are made up of a mixture of all-purpose and white whole wheat flour.  And as an added bonus, they're also very easy to put together. 
I think if you're not already a home baker but want to be, muffins are a great place to start.  For most muffin recipes, putting the batter together is a matter of basic mixing with a whisk or spatula, incorporating some dry and wet ingredients together.  The key is to not overmix, which can be hard to resist at first.  Afterall, the mixing and stirring is half the fun!
Believe it or not, I don't often eat sweets for breakfast.  I mean, I'll eat cereal that's sweetened but in general, I prefer something savory for my first meal.  I like to save my sweet treat for later in the day.  I guess I don't trust myself and I'm afraid I'll over-indulge or be "over my limit" too soon if I start early in the morning.  But for my on-the-run husband, a muffin in the morning can be quite convenient so I have an excuse to explore various muffin options.  I was a little naughty and sprinkled some sanding sugar on top of a couple of the muffins right before baking.  I'll just save those for my midday treat.

I made half the recipe, or six of these orange chocolate muffins.  While I followed the proportions of the recipe, I did make a little change in the way I mixed up the batter.  Instead of mixing the sugar with the other dry ingredients and then blending it with the wet, I like to zest the orange right on top of the sugar, rub the two together to really max out the impact from the zest (a trick I learned recently).  Then, I added the orange juice, oil, and egg to it so that the sugar is incorporated with all the wet ingredients.

Start by putting the equal mix of all-purpose flour and white whole wheat flour together with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Instead of white whole wheat flour, you could also use whole wheat pastry flour.  Either of these contribute that whole wheat goodness but are less assertive and sort of milder than regular whole wheat flour.  Whisk everything together and you have your dry ingredients.
Place the sugar in a medium size bowl and zest the oranges right over the top.  Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers until blended and the sugar is slightly moistened.
Add the orange juice, canola oil, and egg, whisking everything together. 
The wet ingredients are done.  Now it's just a matter of combining the two together. 
I like to make a little well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients to it.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the two together until it's just about combined.  Add the chopped bittersweet chocolate pieces (use a bittersweet chocolate you'd enjoy eating on its own; I used Callebaut) and give it a few more folds to gently incorporate it into the batter.  The name of the game is to not over-mix the batter.  Over-doing it results in a tough muffin.

Use a large ice cream scoop and drop the batter into lined muffin tins.  I'm only making six and I just read somewhere that spacing them apart when baking will allow the muffins to puff up more evenly and create a higher dome.  It makes sense since spacing them should allow more heat to circulate around so I'm going to do this whenever feasible going forward.  This is totally optional but you could sprinkle some granulated or sanding sugar over the top of the muffins right before baking.  I topped a couple with just a bit.  For me, the sugar is almost just a decorative touch.  The muffin tops are already a bit crisp once cooled from the oven but since these muffins are not overly sweet, a bit extra on top doesn't hurt.
These muffins bake in a 400 degree oven for only about 15 minutes or so.  When they're done, the tops are domed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (except for some streaks of chocolate).  

The muffins are fragrant and they taste light, tender, and moist, though not overly so.  This recipe is adapted originally from Cooking Light so notice the fairly high proportion of orange juice, the comparatively smaller amount of oil, and just one egg in the recipe.  Since there is not a whole lot of fat in the batter, I think these are best served the same day they're made, preferably soon out of the oven when they're still a tad warm.  They do keep at room temperature, well wrapped, for a day or two.  I'd suggest tightly wrapping up and freezing any muffins you don't plan to eat within a day or two.


Orange Muffins with Bittersweet Chocolate Chunks

- Makes 12 muffins -

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon or more of orange zest*
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 3 oranges)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg
3/4 cup coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate pieces
1 tablespoon granulated or sanding sugar for topping (optional)

* I always think a little more is better than less when it comes to zest but it doesn't need to be too scientific.  Use all the zest from the oranges you're getting the juice from.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line muffin tin with paper liners.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

Place sugar in a medium size bowl.  Zest oranges directly on top of the bowl of sugar.  Rub zest into the sugar using your fingertips until sugar is moistened.  Add orange juice, oil, and egg, whisking to combine.

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients.  Gently fold the wet and dry ingredients together using a rubber spatula until almost combined.  Add the chopped chocolate and give it a couple more folds to incorporate together.  Do not overmix.

Scoop batter into the lined muffin tins.  Sprinkle a light coating of granulated or sanding sugar on top of the muffins, if desired.  Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean (you do not see any wet muffin batter; you may see some streaks of melted chocolate). 

The muffins are really best the day they are made, served while still slightly warm from the oven.  (If there are leftovers, I would wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze them.  You can reheat the muffins, directly from the freezer, in a 300 degree oven for about 5-10 minutes or I sometimes let it sit overnight at room temperature and rewarm for a couple of minutes in the oven if I have time.  I've been known to heat them quickly for about 15 seconds in a microwave too.)


  1. Hi there, so glad you enjoyed this recipe! :) I'm a big fan of Share Your Sweets as well - a great way to find new recipes. And I love muffins for breakfast, especially with chocolate in them!

  2. Thank you for stopping by, Sara. It was fun making your recipe!



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