Thursday, April 18, 2013

Über Dark Chocolate Muffins

Things have been rough all over this week, wouldn't you say? While spring has started off on a lovely foot from a botany perspective, the events of the world seem to be stuck in a cold, dark winter. When life gets like this, I usually try to go to a happy place (physically, metaphysically, whatever works) and not dwell on the negative. This is one of my happy places; pretty sweet, huh?
And of course I have these two rascals to help me stay grounded (and a little soggy). They sure do love their fetch and swim sessions in the woods. Maybe more than I do.
In an effort to keep things lighthearted, I'm going to keep this short. Muffins, they rock. Especially when chocolate is involved. These ones border on devil's food cake in density and flavor, thanks to the addition of the vinegar and intensity of the chocolate. Super yummy, happy feedback from my wonderful gang of eaters. My suggestion is to go make a batch, pack a sweet little picnic, and find some nature to share a lunch with. Stay positive!

Über Dark Chocolate Muffins
Adapted from: Favorite Chocolate Muffins
  • ⅔ cup dutch-processed cocoa (hershey's special dark worked for me)
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cold coffee
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup chopped chocolate (a 3.53 oz. bar of 85% dark chocolate)
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a standard muffin pan with paper muffin cups.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, coffee, vanilla and vinegar. Add in the melted butter. Add the dry ingredients, stirring until everything is well-combined. Stir in the chopped chocolate and white chocolate chips. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin, about ¾ full.

Bake the muffins for 18-20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the oven and allow muffins to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to a few days (fresh is always best!). 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Homemade Granola Bars

This week I rediscovered my baking roots, so to speak. After a period of time without a well-functioning oven, I finally have one that works the way it should. Yippee! Needless to say I have been baking and cooking up a storm lately: strawberry dream cake, uber dark chocolate muffins, baked tofu, and a personal fav, homemade granola bars. Yes, I channeled my inner hippie, donned some birkenstocks and socks (just kidding), and made granola.
I actually ended up making two separate batches of granola bars this week, one with nuts and one without. Being a fan of nuts, I would recommend adding them to any homemade bars however going the rice crispies route also works for those out there who have nut allergies. For me, it is really a matter of what I have in the cupboards so I don't have to face the monstrosity of the supermarket again (torture, I swear).
One of the things I am still figuring out is how to keep these bars firm and not have them end up chewy (although some folks love chewy granola bars). Leaving them in the fridge until ready to eat is one way, however it doesn't make it easy for taking these along on a hike. As much as I am not a fan of corn syrup, that may be the way I go next time around.
Both times the bars were well received, much more so with the nut bars. They are great with all sorts of seeds, nuts, dried fruits, chocolate chips, etc. Go wild, let your inner hippie shine a bit, and surprise your pals and kids with the goodness (and ease) of homemade granola. Save the end bits and serve as a yogurt parfait. Enjoy!

Homemade Granola Bars
Adapted from: Inspired Taste

  • 2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup whole walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup raisins 
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line bottom and sides of a 8-inch or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil.

Add oats and walnuts to a small baking sheet then bake 5 minutes, stir and bake another 3 to 5 minutes until lightly toasted. Transfer to a large bowl.

Combine butter, honey, brown sugar and the salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until butter melts and the sugar completely dissolves.

Pour butter mixture in to bowl with toasted oats and walnuts. Mix well. Let cool about 5 minutes then add apricots, raisins, cinnamon, and and 1/4 cup of the white chocolate chips. Stir to combine.

Transfer oat mixture to lined pan then use a rubber spatula to firmly press the mixture into the pan. (Press hard here, this way the bars will stay together once cooled and cut).

Scatter remaining 2 tablespoons of white chocolate chips over pressed granola mixture then use a rubber spatula to gently press them into the top. Cover then refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Remove block of granola mixture from pan then peel away aluminum foil. Cut into 12 bars.