Renee and I are having our muffin throwdown next week (and my progress on the blueberry muffins is … progressing … so much so that I’m considering making some apple-cinnamon muffins instead!), but in the meantime one of my coworkers – who happily requests a throwdown more often than we can manage, since he painlessly enjoys the spoils of war, as it were – asked specifically for some chocolate-chip muffins. Well, he didn’t walk up to me and demand I bake some for him, but they came up in conversation and when my eyes lit up (Chocolate? And muffins? Who wouldn’t be excited??) he literally gave an “ooh, ooh!” and asked “hey, can you make some of those? It’ll be practice for the throwdown!” Well, my competitive half couldn’t turn that down, despite never having baked chocolate-chip muffins before. Personally, I can’t call them muffins in good conscience; let’s be honest here – they’re little chocolate-chip cakes, and let’s leave it at that. But if he and everyone else wants to call them “muffins”, I can play along in the name of throwdown practice. Besides, he once trudged through a cornfield on a Sunday night to handpick corn for me, I so know I owe him; and, of course, I like making people happy through my baking.
So, I had no choice but to consult my good ‘ole standbys: Joy of Cooking, Martha Stewart Baking, and my ever-growing collection of recipe clippings and cookbooks. Nothing, however, had what I – and my coworker, I’m sure – were looking for: a soft muffin that wasn’t too sweet and non-negotiable crunchy topping (I’m told the texture makes the muffin top the best part of the muffin – or as my cubicle-mate called it, “the only good part”). I was forced to head to my computer: FoodNetwork.com, MarthaStewart.com, and good old Google. In the end, I found a compromise recipe for just the cake part of the muffin on a random blog, www.bakeorbreak.com, which was actually from McCormick – go figure. This made me feel very generic, but the recipe did look promising, if not at all healthy, so I gave it a whirl. My only modification was to mix up a topping of my own design, which was a breeze to do.
Despite containing a whole stick of melted butter, the further into the recipe I got the more I realized these wouldn’t be any worse than chocolate-chip cookies (which I gobble down regret-free every time), so the guilt subsided. They were very easy to make, too, not requiring much fuss or excessive bowls/utensils/stirring; this was a weeknight favor, after all. No muffin cups, no chopping of nuts … easy peasy and done in a hour! You can see from the photo that they came out nicely browned with just enough of a crisp on the domed top to give it texture but not too much to overpower the muffin’s cake. I also placed five chocolate chips atop each muffin before popping them into the oven so they looked pretty, too. Naturally, my coworkers didn’t notice they were pretty, but they did rave about the flavor. They loved them – and so did I. I doubt I’ll ever bake these again unless someone requests them, but they were fun, easy, and delicious.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1/2 cup milk (I use organic skim)
- 1+ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, tossed in a wee bit of flour
- 2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 4 Tbsp flour
- generous dash ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. Mix the dry ingredients and sugar in a large bowl; whisk to combine. In a separate bowl (I used the Pyrex mixing cup I measured the milk in), beat the eggs, then add in the melted butter, mik, and vanilla. (Side note: I learned from Molly Wizenberg’s My Homemade Life, who learned it from Cooks Illustrated, that if you beat the egg yolks with the butter and then mix that in with the egg whites, milk and vanilla the texture will be much improved and fluffier. She did this for pancakes, but I’m sure the same applies with muffins. I’ll have to try this for next time, since I just read this tip today.) Add the wet ingredient mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring gently until just combined. Add chocolate chips, then spoon into the muffin cups, filling only 2/3 of the way. To make the crumb topping, cut the remaining butter with the flour, sugar, and cinnamon using a pastry cutter or two forks. Spoon each muffin with 1-2 tablespoons of the crumb topping. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned. Let them sit in the pan for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.