Nibby Chocolate Rye Muffins
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.
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.
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.
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).
Friday 2/7: 11am-1pm Book Signing + Granola Tasting at Anthropologie, Berkeley (see below for more information and RSVP!) – FREE
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!)
Sunday 2/9: 1 p.m. Book Talk + Granola Tasting at Book Passage, Corte Madera – FREE
Nibby Chocolate Rye Muffins
- Yield: 12 muffins
- Prep time: 10 mins
- Cook time: 25 mins
- Total time: 35 mins
Adapted from: Short and Sweet
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.
Healthy Comfort Food
Thai Carrot, Coconut and Cauliflower Soup
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
Stuffed Shells with Fennel and Radicchio
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
Smoky Butternut Squash and Three Bean Chili
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
To Talk Porridge
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)
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!
Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe
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!
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!
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?
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
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 :)
Lily (A Rhubarb Rhapsody)
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.
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.
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!!!
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
I am new to your blog and just purchased 2 copies of your book from Amazon. I love it! Thanks for sharing!
Yay, Joy! I so hope you enjoy the book! ~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!
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
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!
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
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!!
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!
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.
Yes, next time Chris!
Karin Anderson (Karin's Bäckerei)
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.
If I don't have coconut oil, what fat do you recommend using instead?
You can use your favorite oil -- olive oil, canola oil etc. Enjoy!
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!
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
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...
Hi, Liz! Great. So glad you enjoyed the recipe. Happy weekend! Megan
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.
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?
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!
I was desperately craving a dark chocolatey baked good that's easy to whip up and made good use of a long-neglected bag of rye flour that sat deep in the back of my cupboard. This recipe was the answer to my prayers. Let me just say that I'm not really a baker & have been completely absent-minded since this pandemic happened... I was impatient and hastily made substitutions willy-nilly (i.e. tapioca starch instead of cornstarch & olive oil instead of coconut). I was certainly not accurate about measuring; in fact, I completely left out the vanilla, salt, and the 1/2 cup of cane sugar (not intentionally). At some point, the chocolate mix thickened into a harrowing amorphous brown blob. Even after adding eggs, oil, and rye flour, the batter seemed more bouncy than seems normal. Nevertheless, driven by a deep desire for something moist, semi-sweet, and chocolatey, I threw it all into a greased loaf pan—no way was I going to try and divide the sticky mass into 12 muffin tins. After some 35-40 min (I didn't really time it well either), I took it out and it looked actually decent. Surprisingly, the loaf turned out to be exactly what I wanted: moist, not too sweet, and packed with dark chocolate ( I did have to sprinkle a littttle bit of salt on each slice to bring out the flavour), but it was otherwise really good! This must be a fool-proof recipe. Thanks!
Yay, so glad to hear you enjoyed them! Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know :)