Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bakery Style Quadruple Chocolate Hazelnut Muffins

I learned recently that listening to your husband sometimes is useful. I also learned that if I ever encountered a great white shark in the ocean or a black bear in the woods I would most certainly be dinner. I can admit that I am probably the last person you'd want around in a physical crisis.

One time I was a first hand witness to a cyclist getting hit by a car at a busy intersection. He literally got slammed right in front of me and flew off his bike. All I did was stand in front of him lying painfully on the ground, pointing and yelling "Your leg is broken!" (His leg was not broken). Seriously, not helping...

Open water has always been my biggest fear. It's not our territory. We are not fish. It feels like I'm intruding in someone else's home. I just don't know what's down there! It's deep and dark and there are things with spines, stingers, sharp teeth and suction cups. I feel much more comfortable on land.

All that said, I've developed an appreciation for the beauty of the underwater world and have taken a liking to snorkeling. The bright colours and strange creatures excite and intrigue me, but I can't help but still swim with extreme reluctance as if some angry octopus is going to come right up to me and tell me that I'm disturbing his mealtime.

I'm pretty comfortable in deep water now. I really really enjoy snorkeling and seeing how incredible nature is. I've been lucky enough to swim with turtles, spot squid, lobster, shrimp, a seahorse, clown fish, sting rays and many other tropical fish. I even swam with sharks, and jumped into the water surrounded by bright pink jellyfish. I'm taking more risks in the water and feel like my confidence is growing. I finally felt like I overcame my fear.

And then last week happened. I was snorkeling happily and peacefully until I took a brief glance to the right and not even 20cm from my head was a black and white striped sea snake rapidly slithering right towards me and it eventually touched my shoulder. All that crossed my mind was the previous time we spotted one of these snakes deep in the ocean, Jonathan mentioned to me that they are very poisonous.

Well, at the moment this venomous snake touched me I completely lost my marbles, came above water, flayled my hands in the air and full-blown panicked. I actually threw Jon right in front of it between me and the snake... I'm not sure what that says about me but he didn't seem to share my stress so I figured I might as well make him useful. He just laughed at me and said "Good find". Yes, good job for spotting the sea snake. Apparently it won't bite me if I don't bother it. Sure. Ok.

Because I need to recover and regain my strength to re-enter the water, I need the comfort and cheerful endorphins that chocolate brings. Nothing brings back my courage and spirit like chocolate and Nutella. Let's throw them both in a bowl and make some muffins!

I'm talking chocolate coming from four different ways: melted dark stuff, cocoa, Nutella and chocolate chips! I'm serious when it comes to stress relief.

I also don't need a challenge right now so this recipe is easy. Anything that starts with melted chocolate and Nutella has to be good. I don't care if you squirt it on a hot dog - it will be delicious. Until I make a Nutella hot dog... then I might eat my words...

Like any great muffin story, you don't need any equipment to build these. It's all hands on deck today. You will need to dirty three bowls though. It will be worth the clean-up.

1) Melted chocolate and nutella in one.
2) Dry ingredients in another.
3) Eggs, oil and milk in the third.

Bowl 1 goes into bowl 3. and bowl 2 gets folded in last. The nice touch is some chopped toasted hazelnuts over the top before baking. They will spread out with the batter to create this dramatic earthquake-like crust. I also love the crunch so much that it will give you even more reason to only want to eat the muffin tops. As much as I do enjoy exploring the ocean floor, muffins are so much better than sea snakes.

Bakery Style Quadruple Chocolate Hazelnut Muffins
Makes 8 large muffins

85g (3oz) dark chocolate, chopped
¼ cup (85g) chocolate hazelnut spread
1 ¼ cups (175g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (25g) cocoa powder
2 ½ tsp baking powder
1/3 cup (65g) granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs
¼ cup (60ml) sunflower oil
½ cup (118ml) milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
113g (4oz) dark chocolate chips
50g roasted chopped hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Line 8 wells of a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper cases.

Melt dark chocolate and chocolate hazelnut spread together in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Sift flour, cocoa and baking powder into a large bowl. Add sugar and salt and whisk to blend.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and oil until very smooth. Whisk in milk and vanilla, then stir in cooled chocolate mixture. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients. Fold together gently, adding chocolate chips halfway through mixing. Do not over-mix.

Divide mixture between paper cases, filling them almost full. Sprinkle hazelnuts over top and press them down lightly so that they stick. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until skewer comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. These are best enjoyed warm!

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