Sunday, October 5, 2014

Cocoa Cranberry Almond Muffins

The best thing about muffins is that they are dead easy to make.

The dodgiest thing about muffins is that they have a reputation for being healthy when most of the time they are not. They truly are the great con-artists of the baking world. A brownie could never disguise like this - sorry boys, but you're just too dang good-looking.

If you choose the blueberry muffin option for breakfast and think you're clever, I'm sorry to tell you that you're not. You just like blueberry muffins. Fair enough. The healthiest thing about them are the blueberries, hiding behind tremendous volumes of oil and sugar just like the rest. They're delicious - they're just not diet food.

This, coming from the girl who eats cookies for breakfast. I know.

These Cocoa Cranberry Almond Muffins are delicious and I've made a concious effort to sneak some good-for-you ingredients in here.

First we have a blend of white and all-purpose flour for that bit of extra fiber via wheat bran.

We also have a hefty amount of cocoa powder which is already naturally high in dietary fibre. Did you know that cocoa is about 35% fibre. Hear this! This is a big deal and it should get more credit. Moral of the story - eat more chocolate.

A bit of oil - not a ton - just 1/3 cup or 80ml, some milk and thick Greek-style yogurt for extra moistness and tenderness. Acidic ingredients like yogurt work wonders in chocolate recipes as the tanginess really brings out the true fruity flavours of cocoa and tempers the bitterness.

We can go about sugar in two ways in a muffin recipe - it can be a dry ingredient or a wet ingredient. As a dry ingredient it gets mixed in with the flour, baking powder and salt. As a wet ingredient it gets whisked up into the eggs, milk and yogurt.

Today sugar is a dry ingredient. This actually helps to create extra soft and tender muffins because when the sugar is in close contact with flour, it will compete with it for moisture when the wet stuff is mixed in.

The part about wheat flour that makes cakes and muffins tough is the protein called gluten and all it really needs to form is some water. As soon as you add the wet mix into the flour and stir, gluten comes out to play. Sugar has an extreme affinity for moisture so it will actually pull some of that water away from the flour and help to give us some extra insurance against brick muffins.

It's still a good idea not to over mix the batter. A little bit of lumpy is welcome.

So, here I give a simple recipe to kick off your week, and this time choosing the muffin option is actually clever.

Grab hold of that coffee and try to unwind. Let's live up these days and just take in the good stuff! Who's with me?

Cocoa Cranberry Almond Muffins
Makes 9 large muffins

1 cup (142g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (45g) whole wheat flour
1/3 cup (35g) unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ cup (165g) packed light brown sugar
½ cup dried cranberries
1 large egg
1/3 cup (80ml) sunflower oil
1/3 cup (80ml) milk
½ cup (120ml) Greek yogurt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
slivered almonds

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line 9 cups of a standard muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.

Sift both flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Add brown sugar and whisk to blend, working out the lumps until well combined. Sprinkle cranberries over top and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, oil, milk, yogurt and vanilla until smooth. Add to the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined. Do not over mix. Divide batter evenly among 9 muffin cups. Sprinkle slivered almonds on top and bake until the muffin tops look cracked at the surface and spring back when touched gently, 18-22 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean despite any melted chocolate chips. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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