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Tiny Celebrations

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Last week, on a day that fiercely called for chocolate, I decided to make a pan of brownies along with a pan of these chocolate muffins. We brought the brownies to our friends Amber and Annie’s house for a dinner party and kept the muffins on the kitchen counter where they sustained us through a few rainy, busy workdays. Sam’s nephew Kevin is living with us for a while and somehow that fact alone has convinced me that we need more treats in the house (although I would like to say for the record that Kevin is far more conservative with treats than I am on most days and there’s a strong chance I ate more of these muffins than both men combined). They’re humble, boast just the right amount of chocolate, are wonderfully moist and even better the second day. 

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To be honest, I thought long and hard about whether or not I wanted to mention these chocolate muffins to you at all. They’re inspired by a recipe in Dan Lepard’s excellent baking book Short and Sweet. You may know Lepard from his food column in The Guardian. He’s a very British baker (although he’s from Australia originally) in the sense that he’s drawn to humble cakes and classic old-fashioned recipes. I find myself returning to his book over and over because he quietly (and sometimes daringly) uses whole-grain flours in unexpected places — and makes no big cheers or to-do’s about it. Each recipe is very much geared towards the home baker, and a quick flip-through always reinvigorates my excitement for baking. So when Dan Lepard described his Chocolate Custard Muffins as “the best chocolate muffin you’ll ever taste,” I thought to myself: Say no more.

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In looking at the recipe though, I found myself wanting to futz with it a little — and now we get to the part of this post where my muffin neurosis becomes quite clear. First, what makes these muffins instead of cupcakes? Did I feel o.k. eating them for breakfast or did they seem more appropriate for dessert? Didn’t I find it odd that they begin with 1/2 cup of corn starch? Even in the juiciest of August peach pies, I’ve only relied on half that amount of cornstarch. What was the science behind the cornstarch? Could I make an egg-based custard instead? Maybe I need another cup of tea before turning on the oven? But really, questions and neurosis aside, I trusted Dan Lepard and his bold claim that this is the best chocolate muffin so I plodded forward … with just a few changes.

I have been really loving pairing chocolate with rye flour lately, so I used 100% whole-grain rye flour in these muffins, swapped in coconut oil and natural sugar, added a good dash of salt and cacao nibs to scatter on the tops. In the end, I know one thing for sure: they weren’t very custardy (although they were wonderfully moist), so I’ve opted to call my version Nibby Chocolate Rye Muffins. And while I’m not 100% sure they’re the best chocolate muffin I’ve ever tasted, they do make a ho-hum rainy weekday feel like a little celebration. They’re comforting in a way that a super rich, decadent muffin just wouldn’t be plus they have these wonderfully grooved tops that make them feel decidedly rustic.

I can say firmly that I quite fancy them. Kevin gave them two thumbs up (which isn’t all too common around here) and Sam repeated many times that he was very fond of them. So I decided to share them here with you … all with the hope that you’ll make them and tell me what you think. And even better: maybe you know the science behind the cornstarch? Or perhaps you may share your favorite chocolate muffin recipe here so I can keep this trend of small, daily celebrations going for a few weeks at the very least.

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Bay Area! I’m in your neck of the woods next week. Will you come out and say hello? You can find me at the following places (I’ll have granola samples and my pen ready to sign your copy of Whole-Grain Mornings). It’d be cool if we could all have a chocolate muffin or two as well, but that might just be pushing our luck(For future events in Portland, Vancouver or Seattle see an updated tour list on the Whole Grain Mornings book page).

East Bay:
Friday 2/7: 11am-1pm Book Signing + Granola Tasting at Anthropologie, Berkeley (see below for more information and RSVP!) – FREE

San Francisco:
Saturday 2/8: 9:30 am-12 pm: Book Signing Birite Divisadaro – FREE
Saturday 2/8: 3-6 pm Breakfast Better Cooking Class at 18 Reasons (there are a few spots left! Come join us!)

Marin:
Sunday 2/9: 1 p.m. Book Talk + Granola Tasting at Book Passage, Corte Madera – FREE

image001Nibby Chocolate Rye Muffins
Adapted from: Short and Sweet

Makes: 12 muffins

½ cup / 60 g cornstarch
3 tbsp / 20g cocoa powder
½ cup /80g dark brown sugar
1 cup cold water
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60%), broken into bits
1 cup whole-grain rye flour (or spelt or whole-wheat if you prefer)
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup / 60g coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
½ cup / 100g natural cane sugar
2 tbsp / 15 g cacao nibs (optional), to sprinkle on top

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a muffin tray with paper liners (or butter well).

Place the cornstarch, cocoa, brown sugar and water into a saucepan and whisk together constantly over medium heath until boiling and quite thick. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and chocolate until thoroughly combined.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Add the oil, vanilla and eggs to the chocolate mixture and stir well. Fold in the sugar and continue stirring until mixture is smooth and thick. Fold in the flour mixture and stir until no clumps remain.

Spoon the batter into muffin liners, and sprinkle the tops with cacao nibs. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops have puffed and are dry to the touch — yet still a touch jiggly in the center . Let cool on a wire rack before serving.

  1. Posted January 31, 2014 at 3:32 am

    Hi Megan, these look wonderful! This is a nice reminder that things don’t need to be perfect, or the best. A little celebration is the perfect thing to get you through a long afternoon at work (accompanied by lots of tea). I adore Dan Lepard – I find his recipes so approachable but not at all boring and he just seems so lovely. I’m excited to try your twist on them :) I’m also very excited for your book to arrive – it’s making it’s way here to me in Australia!

  2. Posted January 31, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Megan, these sound absolutely lovely. I actually made a chocolate banana muffin earlier this week (and it’s vegan too). The muffins turned out so moist and chocolate-y, that I decided I had to share. Plus, it seems like many people are often looking for a new way to bake with ripe bananas. I plan on posting the recipe next week!

  3. megang
    Posted January 31, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Awesome, Amanda! I’ll keep an eye out for your post next week. Love the idea of banana .. would cut down on the need for butter/oil. Happy weekend!

  4. Sara L.
    Posted January 31, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Megan, I’ve heard that adding 2 Tbsp. cornstarch to 1 c. of flour is the lifehacker version of cake flour. Supposedly, it gives the cake or baked good you’re making a lighter consistency. Perhaps this the same reason why Lepard adds it to these muffins?

  5. Posted January 31, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    How clever!!! I adore chocolate and this looks incredibly yummy. I can’t wait to try this with whole wheat flour.

    What a great treat to have for breakfast…when it tastes like dessert!

    Are you coming to the East Coast for any appearances? I live in South Carolina :)

  6. Posted January 31, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    I love chocolate muffins but often find them not rich enough. If something’s going to be chocolate flavoured then I want it knock your socks off chocolatey! :) These sure look delightfully chocolatey and the addition of cacao nibs has definitely won me over. As for the corn flour, I’d say it’s like putting corn/rice flour in shortbread, it gives it a lighter crumb.

  7. Posted January 31, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Megan, I love that in your baking, you explain your thought process. To see that you tinker with recipes, rate their success, and then describe how they fit into your healthy lifestyle gives the recipe life – and ideas for bring the recipe into my life and home. Can’t wait to try these.

    I’ve always wanted to visit an Anthropolgie store and then to meet you had have you sign my cookbook – wow, the west coast sounds amazing.

  8. megang
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Ahhh, I had no idea Sara! Maybe so. They are really delightfully light and delicate. Thank you for the tip / info! Have a great weekend! ~Megan

  9. Posted February 1, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Megan,

    Did you happen to see the double-chocolate rye muffins posted recently at green kichen stories? (http://www.greenkitchenstories.com/double-chocolate-rye-muffins/) On my list to try soon! Chocolate + rye is new to me, but being Danish, I feel it is my duty to investigate further :)

    Antrho signing?! Wheeeeeeee!!! You go, girl!!!

    xo,
    M

  10. Joy
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    I am new to your blog and just purchased 2 copies of your book from Amazon. I love it! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Hi Megan!

    I’ve just discovered your blog thanks to shout-outs about your new book (congrats!) from a huge number of my other favourite bloggers. I’ve made the toasted steel-cut oats that Molly raved about on her blog oh, about three times in the last week (!) and just pulled the pear and hazelnut muffins out of the oven to rave reviews from the whole family. I think, given that I’ve just purchased a bag of rye flour, that these muffins are next!

    I only wish I’d found your blog sooner! I’m looking forward to adding A Sweet Spoonful to my weekly reading list!

  12. megang
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 8:19 am

    Hi Jessie-
    Oh, I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying the blog and the recipes from the book. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Have a great week, ~Megan

  13. megang
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 8:20 am

    Yay, Joy! I so hope you enjoy the book! ~Megan

  14. Holly
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 8:21 am

    These muffins look great! I’m always on the lookout for a great recipe in which to use rye flour since my big bag is often hard to use up. Also, I made the homemade yogurt from your book and it turned out fantastic! I’ve been tinkering around with homemade yogurt recipes for a while now and hadn’t really found what I was looking for. Your ratios are spot-on and helped me produce some of my best yogurt yet! Thanks!

  15. megang
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 8:23 am

    Hi, Molly! Woweee, those muffins look good! I love their use of coconut milk, and am eager to try this version (with flaky salt to boot!) Thanks for sending along! Yes and very excited about the Anthro signing … one of my favorite stores, so really fun to get to be there with Whole-Grain Mornings! xox, Megan

  16. megang
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Yay, Holly! I’m so glad to hear. Yep, once you tackle the yogurt a few times, it does seem silly to buy all those containers, doesn’t it? I like the flavor so much better, too. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the book! ~Megan

  17. Susan
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:00 am

    OMG, I just got your book and I CANNOT get passed the 5 grain Porrige mix…I have made it in so many iterations and Love it. Tonight I make the Huckelberry Custard…someone just ‘cleaned’ out her freezer and gave me some.
    Thank you so so much. I heard about the book from Heidi Swanson’s blog and told my dtr to get it!!

  18. Joy
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:25 am

    I made this on Sunday morning – I did not have cacao nibs so I settled for topping it with walnuts but even so, the rich chocolatey flavor is to die for. My husband is a little doubtful these muffins are breakfast food, but his skepticism did not show up until he was halfway through his second one. We made 12, and they are all gone. Such a lovely treat – thank you. I’m a new reader of your book/ blog, and I love the recipes and the writing. This comment is being composed between bites of perfect oatmeal, topped with raisins, coconut milk, and crystallized ginger.Keep ‘em coming please!

  19. Posted February 8, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Shucks and buggers, you were in Berkeley on Friday down near 4th St between 11-1 and I? I was preparing the crust for my torta morbida con amarene in guscio friabile no less than ten minutes walk away. Sorry I missed you–but for what its worth, the cakey/pie thing I made…chocolate with sour cherries…re…’cakey/pie’ came out fabulously.

    Meeting you would have been a high point for an otherwise awful day riding AC transit, walking in the rain with groceries, and getting a flat tire on my bike.

    Next time!

  20. megang
    Posted February 10, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Yes, next time Chris!

  21. Posted March 5, 2014 at 6:11 am

    The muffins look great! I agree with Sara, the cornstarch is used like cake flour.
    I always exchange some of the white flour for whole grains, too. If you exchange more than 1/4 to 1/3 you have to mind the liquid and add a bit, though, since whole grain flour absorbs more moisture.

  22. Sharon
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    If I don’t have coconut oil, what fat do you recommend using instead?

  23. megang
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Hi Sharon-
    You can use your favorite oil — olive oil, canola oil etc. Enjoy!

  24. kelli ann
    Posted March 18, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Megan, here in my kitchen in SE Québec, you are 2 for 2! Your oatmeal (via Orangette) was in my bowl on our latest snow day, & a batch of these muffins — which i was sure i had botched– is our dessert tonight. Fantastic. In lieu of cocoa nibs, mine have a whole raspberry perched on top. Merci! And miam!

  25. megang
    Posted March 18, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    Kelli Ann! Love the idea of the raspberry on top. So glad you’re enjoying the recipes (isn’t that oatmeal incredible?) Stay warm! ~megan

  26. Liz
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Made these this afternoon & absolutely loved them! The texture & flavor reminds me of something from childhood that I can’t quite place. Maybe a chocolatey marshmallow filling…

  27. megang
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Hi, Liz! Great. So glad you enjoyed the recipe. Happy weekend! Megan

  28. Katy
    Posted April 20, 2014 at 4:35 am

    I am new to your blog and am really enjoying your recipes and your writing. Dan Lepard’s chocolate custard muffins have been my favourite chocolate cake for a while now and a recipe that I have passed on to lots of friends and family. I enjoy baking with both rye flour and adding cacao nibs to my baking so am looking forward to trying your version. Thank you.

  29. baker123
    Posted May 4, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Megan – Could I use oat flour instead of rye flour in this recipe? I don’t have rye or spelt flour, and I find the taste of whole wheat a little harsh. What would you recommend?

  30. megang
    Posted May 4, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Hi, there! I think oat flour would be just fine. I haven’t tried it with oat flour but I’ve swapped in oat flour in quite a few muffin recipes with a simlilar liquid / dry ingredient ratio, so I think you’ll be o.k. Let me know how you like them!

8 Trackbacks

  1. By Friday Finds + Thanks | Feast + West on January 31, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    […] Nibby Chocolate Rye Muffins // A Sweet Spoonful […]

  2. […] Nibby Chocolate Rye Muffins by A Sweet Spoonful These chocolatey muffins rely on whole-grain rye flour for an extra dose of hearty flavor. […]

  3. By Lately « Sweet Peas and Green Tea on February 18, 2014 at 2:53 am

    […] chocolate muffins are perfection. As are these brownies. Clearly it’s all about chocolate at the […]

  4. […] To start experimenting with other whole-grain flours, such as barley, buckwheat and oat, Gordon suggests swapping a quarter to half of the all-purpose flour called for in a recipe with whole-grain flour. The gluten and protein content of the flours can lead to varied results, so she doesn’t recommend a one-to-one swap right off the bat. Beyond the nutritional benefits of eating more whole grains are the unique flavours they impart. “Barley flour is really a wonderful, mild, sweet flour that pairs really well with fruit so if I’m ever doing muffins or scones that have berries or that sort of thing, barley is great,” Gordon says. “And I’ve been really into rye flour lately. It’s nice this time of year, in the winter, because it has a dark, earthy flavour and it’s really great with chocolate.” […]

  5. […] To start experimenting with other whole-grain flours, such as barley, buckwheat and oat, Gordon suggests swapping a quarter to half of the all-purpose flour called for in a recipe with whole-grain flour. The gluten and protein content of the flours can lead to varied results, so she doesn’t recommend a one-to-one swap right off the bat. Beyond the nutritional benefits of eating more whole grains are the unique flavours they impart. “Barley flour is really a wonderful, mild, sweet flour that pairs really well with fruit so if I’m ever doing muffins or scones that have berries or that sort of thing, barley is great,” Gordon says. “And I’ve been really into rye flour lately. It’s nice this time of year, in the winter, because it has a dark, earthy flavour and it’s really great with chocolate.” […]

  6. […] complete ingredients and recipe instructions go to Megan’s blog […]

  7. By despite ourselves | our messy table on May 19, 2014 at 11:04 am

    […] From A Sweet Spoonful […]

  8. […] source […]

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