Half the fun of blogging is trying out new things and sharing the experience. When Elena of Experiments challenged us to come up with muffins that had the 'ooooh' factor, something out of the ordinary, for Muffin Monday2, I looked on it as an opportunity to play in the kitchen with muffins.
I've always loved buttermilk muffins. Just like buttermilk biscuits, the addition of buttermilk adds a tang and moistness. With the addition of baking soda, you also get that acid/base reaction that can give them lightness. So I started with a Blueberry Muffin recipe that used buttermilk.
Next I decided that I wanted to have a surprise inside the muffins. First I tried chocolate covered caramel candy kisses, but the caramel just melted in and didn't really add much. Then I went with solid milk chocolate Hersey kisses, frozen, then chopped. They still sink to the bottom, making it tricky to remove the muffins without leaving some muffin (and chocolate chunk) on the pan, but they surely are a yummy surprise when you bite into a muffin that looks pretty healthy.
Another change was replacing some of the flour with toasted pecan meal becasue I thought it would go well with the chocolate. At Christmas I've made cookies by grating nuts in a cheese rotary grater, so I tried that, too. The toasted pecans add lots of flavor and they also offset some of the reaction between the buttermilk and the baking soda. These are not sky high muffins, but the crumb is lovely and having grated nuts gives them a wonderful texture. It does go really well with the chocolate, too. If I make these again, I might grate the chocolate instead of chunking it and fold it into the flour.
The last change, except for proportions of the baking powder and soda, was to substitute brown sugar for white sugar. I tried mixing some with the butter and melting it, but that just congealed when I tried to mix it into the egg mixture, so for the next batch, I just mixed the brown sugar right into the egg and buttermilk mixture.
This was a fun experiment process and leaves me really appreciating cookbook authors who have to make recipes 3-6 times, or more to get it all right. If I were going to include these in a cookbook, I'd play with the proportions more, but, as is, they are pretty damn good.
Toasted Pecan Surprise Muffins
Makes 1 dozen
Based very loosely on a Blueberry Muffin Recipe
In Jim Fobel’s Old Fashioned Baking Book
½ cup milk chocolate kisses (about 16), frozen, then chopped roughly
¾ cup pecan pieces, toasted, then grated (see below) and measured to make 1 cup grated pecan meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray a 12 pan muffin tin with cooking spray, or line with muffin papers.
Freeze the milk chocolate kisses. Unwrap them and chop roughly, set aside.
Toast the pecan pieces. Using a rotary cheese grater, grate nuts into a fine powder. Measure 1 cup of the grated nuts. Set aside If there is extra, reserve for another use.
In a large bowl, mix together lightly the grated nuts, the flour, the baking powder and baking soda, and the salt.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, the brown sugar, and the vanilla extract. Whisk in the cooled melted butter.
Mix wet mixture into dry mixture in a few strokes. Blend in the candy quickly. Scoop batter into prepared muffin tin.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until muffins are golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed in the center.
Cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan. Serve warm or cooled.