Muffin Monday: Cherry-Almond-Chocolate Chip Muffins

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This fourth installment of Muffin Mondays might be my best yet.

A series of serendipitous purchases gave me the ingredients to create a sweet and sophisticated muffin, one that rises above its more homely brethren and exudes an air of calm self-assurance. This muffin is damn tasty, and it knows it. If this muffin were a person, she’d be a Hamptons-going, slinky-gown-wearing, champagne-cocktail-sipping dilettante. But she’d also be grounded – her participation in philanthropic events would be genuine, and she’d donate that slinky dress to one of those centers that gives out free prom dresses to low-income teenagers. Basically, she’d be a kind-hearted, generous, lovable lady.

Who is she? Why, she’s a Cherry-Almond-Chocolate Chip Muffin, of course.

A close-up of a muffin on its side. In the background is a tin of muffins and another lone muffin.

Well, hello!

Exuding a sweet almond perfume, she’s filled with tart dried cherries and dark chocolate chips, ensuring that each bite offers a unique sensation and combination of tastes. You know you want her. So why don’t you make her?

Cherry-Almond-Chocolate Chip Muffins
(makes six good-sized muffins)

1/2 T ground flax + 1 1/2 T warm water

3/4 + 1 T C all-purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 C almond meal
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt

1 1/2 t almond flavor (see note below)
1/2 t vanilla extract
2/3 C almond milk
Heaping 1/3 C vegan sugar

1/4 C sliced almonds
1/3 C dried unsweetened cherries
1/4 C dark chocolate chips (seriously, use the good stuff here – I got mine from the bulk bins at the co-op)

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 6-muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flax into the warm water and set aside. In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together and mix well. Add the wet ingredients and the sugar to the flax mixture and stir well, making sure all wet ingredients are mixed. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix until just incorporated. Fold in the almonds, dried cherries, and the chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin – it’ll come up to the top of each well. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Ingredient note: Oddly, my co-op only carries almond flavor, not almond extract. The main difference seems to be that the flavor is slightly thicker, as its base is glycerin (eek?). The brand I have uses natural almond essence, so I know that at least this isn’t a totally synthetic almond flavor. Small comfort, but there it is. Next time I’ll shop elsewhere – or maybe my co-op was just out of stock! If you make these muffins and use almond extract, you might want to cut down the amount given here.

Another close-up of a muffin.

Nom nom.

There you have it. My most decadent muffin yet, one I know I’ll recreate in the future to enjoy again and again. I hope you will, too! These are best eaten warm with a smidgen of Earth Balance, when the chocolate chips are a little melty and soft. Mmm.

What’s your favorite muffin variety? Have you ever bought a lesser version of a food item (e.g. almond flavor instead of almond extract)?

Note: This is a scheduled post, because I’m currently in Italy. Apologies for any weirdness with auto-publishing!

Muffin Monday: Banana-Chocolate Chip

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I hope you don’t judge me too harshly for this unoriginal installment of Muffin Mondays. Everyone and their mom’s dentist has a banana muffin recipe, so who am I to add one to the collection? I have no compelling answer to that question, so I’m going to show you a picture and hope that it’ll distract you from judging my boringness too harshly.

Close-up of a muffin cut in half; in the background is a small bowl filled with muffins.

Sliced.

These are pretty simple, but they’re tasty. Brown rice syrup gives them a sophisticated sweetness, and a smattering of chocolate chips makes them a little more playful than your standard banana muffin affair.

Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins
(makes six)

1/2 T ground flax + 1 1/2 T warm water

3/4 white whole wheat flour (Note: I found that WWWF made my muffins a bit grainy. Next time, I’ll use whole wheat pastry flour.)
1/2 all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon

1 large very ripe banana
1/4 C dark brown sugar
2 T coconut oil
2 T almond milk
1 heaping T brown rice syrup
1/2 t vanilla extract

1/3 C chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 6-muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flax into the warm water and set aside. In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together and mix well. Add the wet ingredients and the brown sugar to the flax mixture and stir well, making sure all wet ingredients are mixed. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix until just incorporated. Fold in the dried coconut and the pineapple. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin – it’ll come up to the top of each well. Bake for 20 or so minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Close-up of a small bowl filled with muffins.

Bowl o' muffins.

I’m sorry for posting these so late – I usually draft my posts at night and then edit and publish them when I get into work in the morning, but I hadn’t added the recipe to this post last night, and it was saved on my home computer. Alas! So I had to wait until I got home from work to add it and publish. But here they are!

What’s your favorite banana muffin (or bread!) recipe?

Muffin Mondays: Never Let Go [of Summer] Muffins

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This is the second installment of Muffin Mondays – each Monday during MoFo, I’m posting a brand new muffin recipe. Carb lovers, rejoice!

Last week’s first installment of Muffin Mondays featured Fruit Medley Muffins, a hearty, wholesome, fiber-packed morsel to help you ease into another week of work on a crisp autumn morning. But what if you happen to live in a region that’s experiencing a return to summer, with temperatures in the upper 70s, clear blue skies, and nothin’ but sun? Then I suggest you celebrate pseudo-summer by baking up a batch of tropical-inspired muffins.

A bowl of muffins in the left-hand background and a plate with a muffin (cut in two) in the foreground.

Bowl full o' sunshine.

Never Let Go [of Summer] Muffins
(Makes 6 good-sized muffins)

1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 C all-purpose flour
1/2 T baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground nutmeg
scant 1/4 t salt
dash cinnamon

1/2 flax egg (1 T ground flax + 1.5 T warm water)
1/2 C coconut + almond
1 T vegetable oil
1/2 T freshly grated ginger (optional but recommended)
3/4 t vanilla
1/4 C + 2 t sugar
1 T maple syrup
2 T freshly squeezed lime juice

1/4 cup coconut flakes
Heaping 1/2 C diced pineapple (I used frozen pineapple chunks cut into smaller pieces; you could use fresh or even try canned – just be sure not to add excess liquid)

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 6-muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flax into the warm water and set aside. In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the flax mixture and stir well, making sure all wet ingredients are mixed. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix until just incorporated. If the batter seems extremely liquidy, add a tablespoon or two of all-purpose flour. When it’s wet but not liquidy, fold in the dried coconut and the pineapple. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin – it’ll cup up to the top of each well. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Close-up of a muffin cut in two on a plate. It has visible coconut flakes and pineapple chunks.

Sweetness.

Each of these cheery muffins is filled with bright flavors; pineapple and ginger take a star role while coconut and lime provide subtle background notes. Feel free to play with the proportions; you could reduce the amount of ginger and add extra coconut, or include lime zest to up your citrus quotient. Whatever way you go, these muffins are a summer-inspired treat to keep you smiling on a sunny Monday morning. I’ll never let go, Jack! of summer!

Do you embrace seasonal changes? What’s your favorite muffin? What should I make next?

Easing into Monday with Fruit Medley Muffins

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This is the first installment of Muffin Mondays – each Monday during MoFo, I’ll post a brand new muffin recipe. Carb lovers, rejoice!

Sometimes, Sunday night rolls around and the thought of heading back to work the next morning really bums you out. You’ve had a great weekend, taking long walks with your sweet dog and spending quality time with your even sweeter significant other. You just want that blissful state of relaxation to continue, and visions of your desk and the work that awaits just fill you with dread. So you head to the kitchen, sure that a bout of baking will cure your woes. And the result – muffins, in this case – will accompany you to work, giving you something delicious to nibble when it’s time for elevenses (or even second breakfast).

Rooting around in the fridge, you discover remnants and leftovers – half a can of pumpkin puree, a holdover from the time you made pumpkin spice lattes, sits next to a third-full jar of coconut milk, languishing on the shelf ever since you made a sauce that only needed 1/3 cup. And there’s that bag of mixed dried fruit you purchased at the drugstore weeks ago when you were on a road trip and needed a quick energy fix en route to the Renegade craft fair in Chicago. What to do, what to do…

A muffin sits on a small plate alongside a pile of dried apricots.

Fruitlicious.

Fruit Medley Muffins
(makes 6 good-sized muffins)

1 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 T baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger

1 flax egg (1 T ground flax plus 3 T warm water)
1/2 C coconut milk
1 T oil
2 T agave
1/4 C sugar
1/2 t vanilla
2 T pumpkin

1/4 C chopped Medjool dates
1/4 C chopped apricots
1/4 C chopped prunes

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 6-muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flax into the warm water and set aside. In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the flax mixture and stir well. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix until just incorporated, then fold in the dried fruit. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Bake for 22 – 25 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Substitution notes: For a lower-fat muffin, you could substitute your favorite alt-milk for the coconut milk. If you don’t have pumpkin puree, I’m sure applesauce would work equally well. Finally, feel free to substitute any dried fruits you have in the house. Medjool dates add a really delicious caramel flavor, but any dried date (or no dates at all!) will do.

As long as you don’t forget to pack a few of these hearty snacks in your lunch box, you’ll have a sweet, mostly healthy treat to enjoy with your morning cup of tea or during your mid-afternoon “Is it time to go home yet?” slump. The pumpkin adds a nice smoothness to these muffins, and the dried fruit and flax fills them with fiber to keep your innards clean. Is there a better way to start a week than with clean innards? I didn’t think so.

What’s your favorite muffin recipe? Do you bring homemade treats to work? Do you have suggestions for a muffin I should create?

P.S. Only two more days to enter my giveaway!