Saturday, April 5, 2008


I've been thinking about muffins again. Not just any muffins, though. My dreams were of moist sour-cream muffins with dried cherries soaked in creme de cocoa, chocolate chips and a streusel topping. Those kind of muffins. Food & Wine Magazine had an interesting recipe in their March 2001 publication ("Cranberry Muffins with Walnut Crumb Topping") and I decided to use it for my base recipe, adapting it to a lower-fat, lower-sugar version with cherries and chocolate chips instead of the cranberries. The muffins came out really, really good, with just enough cherries in ratio to the chocolate chips, except that the baking temps were off. Food & Wine recommended baking at 425F for 20 minutes. In 12 minutes, my muffins were done, and my oven runs "true." Either their oven was way off, or they never made this recipe. Even at 12 minutes, the tops of the muffins burned and the sides were a little bit too brown. I usually bake my muffins in a preheated 500F oven and as soon as I put them in, I reduce the heat to 350F. I've never burned a muffin (top, bottom or side) using that technique. Here's my recipe:

Cherry-Chocolate Chip Muffins
Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup white whole wheat or regular whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
4-1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, divided use
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Muffins: 2 cups bleached all-purpose flour (I used White Lily)
1/2 cup sugar (I used 1/4 cup sugar + 1-1/2 tsp. Stevia)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup lite sour cream
1 extra-large egg
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. chocolate flavoring (or 1 tsp. creme de cocoa)
heaping 1/2 cup dried cherries soaked in 1/3 cup hot creme de cocoa and drained
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 500F. Spray cups of a 12-cup nonstick muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

Make the crumb topping: In a small bowl, combine flour with sugars, baking powder and salt. Stir in 3 Tbsp. melted butter, reserving 1-1/2 Tbsp. for the muffin batter. Add the walnuts and pinch the topping mixture into clumps. Set aside.

Make the muffins: In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk the sour cream with the egg, applesauce, vanilla and chocolate flavoring and the reserved 1-1/2 Tbsp. melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and lightly combine (just barely--don't overmix and don't get all the lumps out.) Add the drained cherries and the chocolate chips and lightly fold them in. Spoon about 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin cup, then top with about 1 Tbsp. crumb topping, patting the topping into the muffin batter so it adheres. Put muffins in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350F. Bake for 14-17 minutes, or till muffins test done when a toothpick inserted in center returns almost clean. Let muffins cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Yield: 12 standard-size muffins

TIP: Don't throw out the creme de cocoa from the drained cherries. Save it for your next baking project. Put some more cherries in it and let them soak. The longer the better. hic

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