I was rereading Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman series recently. Corinna Chapman is an accountant-turned-bread-baker in Melbourne, Australia, who takes on a 15-year-old recovering heroin addict named Jason as an apprentice. Turns out Jason has quite the talent for baking, especially with making incredible muffins that are better than Corinna’s herself.
Whenever I read this series, I feel the urge to try and be a Jason (as the muffin baker, not the recovering heroin addict). You’ll probably find a muffin recipe on my blog that makes the same reference from the last time I read the series.
I’ve tasted some seriously amazing muffins in my time. What makes a good muffin to me is, of course, a crisp but not hard muffin top and a velvety crumb interior that’s more firm than a cake but not dense or hard. Don’t tell, but I used to live on the Costco lemon poppyseed muffins 20 pounds ago. Yum. So I thought I would give it a go and channel my latent Jason to try and make good muffins. The key to a good muffin and getting that velvety texture is the lightness of the batter. Which means not overmixing it and getting the batter together quickly and evenly with the barest of strokes. Otherwise you end up with a tough interior, not a soft one.
Alas, just like the last time, Jason was so latent in my muffin-making abilities that I’m forced to acknowledge and remember, this fictional character exists nowhere in my baking DNA. That’s my fancy way of saying I can’t make very good muffins. Try as I might, I can’t mix it right. I err on the side of undermixing and end up with flour pockets. Not small ones either. Laughably big ones, as a matter of fact. So then I have to mix a little more and before you know it, I’m sure my batter is overmixed.
Not that these turned out tough in texture. They were actually almost cupcake like. But missing that soft tender crumb of a good muffin. The muffin top wasn’t crisp either but had nearly the same texture as a soft cupcake top. I think I’ll stick to reading about muffins then.
Chocolate chunk muffins
From Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line the 12 cup molds in a regular-size muffin pan with cupcake or muffin liners.
2. Melt the butter and 2 ounces of the chopped bittersweet chocolate in the top half of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Remove from heat.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another mixing bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla extract together until well combined.
4. Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted butter-chocolate mixture over the dry ingredients and, with a whisk or rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. A few lumps are okay; do not overmix. Fold in remaining chocolate chunks. Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes before removing each muffin from its mold.