Thursday, 9 October 2008

Choccy Muffins

It always surprises me when I meet someone who professes a dislike or indifference to chocolate. Yet they drink coffee which to my simple mind seems much more unpalatable and 'toxic' in flavour. Yes, there is bad coffee, and bad chocolate aplenty, but I'm definitely in the chocoholic camp and would rather have cups of tea than coffee any day. That's not to say coffee can't lift rich chocolate flavours - a shot of espresso in your brownie mix does wonders for the aroma of those little squares of gooey chocolateness. Ditto if you add some coffee to butter icing when decorating a chocolate cake. Not so toxic you say, to which I would counter, "quite right, but that's because all those bitter coffee compounds have been tempered by butter and sugar"!

Anyway, I digress. Few foods - other than fish, cheese, homemade bread, and summer fruits - lift the spirits as much as chocolate. If I were a scientist and looking for a research grant (not difficult, apparently the sciences are awash with money, to the ire of us in the impoverished humanities) I'd definitely choose chocolate as my subject of investigation, and there's already evidence of the beneficial health effects good, dark chocolate confer when eaten in moderation. Therein lies the catch: whilst dark chocolate may be good for you, hoovering an entire 150g bar probably won't be, although I tried it once with a Lindt 70% before an exam and it worked wonders for my concentration before the sugar and caffeine high plummeted to a magnificent low - thankfully towards the end of the exam.

So, these choccy muffins may have health-boosting dark chocolate in them, but the butter and sugar unfortunately somewhat mitigate the health benefits. If you can eat these in moderation you're certainly a more virtuous foodie than this Scandi chocolate fiend...

Makes 12 small muffins
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 125g butter, melted
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 125g sour cream
  • 30-40g cocoa (depends how rich you like you're chocolate flavour...)
  • 30-40g chopped dark chocolate
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt (up to 1/4 tsp if using unsalted butter)
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda (helps lift the muffins)
optional additions: frozen raspberries, walnuts, pecans, macademias, a bit of orange zest, spices such as cinnamon or extracts such as peppermint

First, preheat oven to 180ºC. Lightly grease muffin tins

In a large bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Make a well in the middle and add the liquid ingredients, then using a large metal spoon simply fold the ingredients together to form a moist, but not sloppy mixture. If it's really dense, add a few splashes of milk, water or, ahem, coffee to loosen the mix.

Once it looks even, spoon the mixture into the muffin tins and bake on the mid-top shelf (ie. not near the grill, but not totally in the middle) for 25-30 minutes.

These muffins freeze exceptionally well, and can be tarted up with an icing at a later date...

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