Sunday, February 17, 2019

Mocha Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins

The chocolate-chocolate chip muffins that I'm posting today contain an unusual ingredient (for me at least):  Whole wheat flour.  As a kid this would have appalled me.  And to be honest—that kid’s sensibilities concerning sweet baked goods being sullied by “healthy” ingredients are still alive and well in my adult self.  I think only the good experiences I had had with Margaret Fox's Morning Food: from Café Beaujolais cookbook (and sentimental memories of a trip to Mendocino) could have induced me to try these muffins in the first place.   




For whatever reason, I did try them…and liked them.  I liked them well enough to make a note in the side bar of the cookbook that they were "very good."  Then, as has been the case with so many good recipes over the years, I forgot about them.  But a couple of weeks ago as I was getting ready for my class on grains…and I needed a fifth recipe—preferably something slightly sweet, or even dessert-like…I remembered them.  I thought they would be a perfect addition to the class.

In preparing for the class I altered the recipe quite a bit from the original.  For a start, I used white whole wheat flour.  I’m not sure that white whole wheat flour existed when I was growing up.   Made from a different kind of hard wheat (white, instead of red), it is still the whole grain and every bit as nutritious as the whole wheat made from hard red wheat that most of us in the States grew up with.  It is reputed to have a milder, sweeter flavor than red wheat.  The thing I like about it is that the bran is softer and much less obtrusive.  You can of course make these muffins with regular whole wheat flour, but any whole wheat haters at your table will pick up on the presence of the whole wheat in their muffin after one bite. 


The original recipe used vegetable oil.  In recent years I have been experimenting with using olive oil in place of vegetable oil in some of my baked goods.  Sometimes baked goods made with vegetable oil have a slightly oily texture.  With olive oil this doesn’t seem to be an issue.  The one difficulty is that olive oil has a strong flavor, so you have to be choosy about where you use it.  In general, I have found that baked goods that contain other strong flavors (spices, shredded fruits and vegetables, purées, chocolate, etc.)—or are sweetened with brown sugar or honey or molasses—are all good candidates for experimentation.  Since these muffins contain chocolate and brown sugar I thought olive oil would work well. 

One other significant change I made has to do with how I obtain the coffee flavor.  The original just used strong, brewed coffee for part of the liquid.  This produces a mild coffee flavor at best.  You get a much richer coffee punch if you use actual ground coffee.  If you use espresso pods at home, simply break one open and measure out what you need.  I have a burr coffee grinder which produces beautiful, finely ground coffee, so that’s what I use.  If you don’t have access to one of these methods, I would use instant espresso powder.  But in the end, if all you have access to is strong, brewed coffee, it is fine to use it.  Just substitute a third cup of coffee for a third cup of the yogurt.

I made a few other minor changes too.  I increased the sugar slightly (a chocolate muffin should be sweet, I think…).  I also used whole milk yogurt instead of buttermilk.  I always have yogurt on hand.  I have to make a special trip to the store to get buttermilk.  I’m guessing you could use buttermilk if that’s what you have.  I wouldn’t reduce the sugar.  I think these muffins have just the right amount of sweetness. 




Finally, I feel that I need to say that I no longer dislike whole wheat flour as a general rule.  I love whole grain yeast loaves.  And Irish brown soda bread is one of my very favorite things.  But even as an adult it would have been the chocolate and not the whole wheat that attracted me to these muffins.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the whole wheat adds (giving the muffins a substantial and satisfying feel) rather than detracts.  And this would be the reason that I wanted to remember them and make them again—because they were delicious…not because I thought they were good for me.  But for those who might be interested, these muffins do appear to be loaded with things that have been touted in recent years for their health benefits:  cocoa/dark chocolate, walnuts, olive oil, coffee, yogurt, eggs…and a whole grain.  Even with the inclusion of the refined brown sugar and white flour, I think these muffins definitely count as a win in the nutrition department.

But of course the persnickety eaters at your table don’t need to know all this. The picky child that I was would have been so disappointed to learn that something made of chocolate (and that looked like it was supposed to be cake) was also harboring whole wheat that I probably wouldn’t have tasted them.  And this would have been unfortunate, because I would have missed out.  My advice is: if you are serving these to a fussy eater, just tell them you’ve made chocolate-chocolate chip muffins.  You can wait until they’re reaching for their second or third before you give them the bad news that they’re “good for you.”


Mocha Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins

120 g. (1 c.) all-purpose flour
130 g. (1 c. less 1 T.) white whole wheat flour
27 g. (1/3 c. sifted) Dutch-processed Cocoa
6 to 8 g. (1 T.) espresso-grind coffee—or use 1 t. instant espresso powder
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
150 g. (3/4 c.) packed light-brown sugar
2/3 c. (73 g.) walnuts, toasted and coarsely crumbled
2/3 c. (115 g.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
1/2 c. (105 g.) olive oil
1 c. (242 g.) whole milk plain yogurt
1 t. vanilla
Turbinado sugar (optional)


Sift the first 8 ingredients into a large bowl.  (There will be bits of bran that won’t go through the sifter.  Don’t discard this…just add it to the bowl.  The goal of sifting is to get rid of lumps and aerate the heavier dry ingredients.) Whisk to combine.  Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.  Set aside.


Crack the eggs into a medium bowl.  Whisk to break up.  Add the olive oil while whisking.  Whisk in the yogurt and vanilla.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and fold in with a rubber spatula just until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Work quickly, making each stroke count so as not to over-mix. (Over-mixed muffins tend to be tough.)


Scoop the batter into foil-lined or greased muffin cups.  (I use an ice cream scoop.  If you have a standard muffin pan and use a twelfth of the batter in each—a rounded third cup/3 oz. of batter—the muffin cups will look too full.  Don’t worry; they bake up perfectly, with a nice, puffy, mounded “muffin top.”)  


If you want a little added sweetness and crunch, sprinkle with the Turbinado sugar.  Bake at 375° until puffed and springy to the touch in the center and a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean—about 18 to 20 minutes.  (Don’t over bake—this will make them dry.)  Remove to a rack to cool.


Makes 12

(Recipe adapted from Morning Food: from Cafe Beaujolais by Margaret S. Fox)


 








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