Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Death-Defying Baking: Dark Chocolate Cranberry Cardamom Muffins

I love to bake but I need to reduce my sugar consumption for my health and longevity. To this end, I’ve embarked on a crusade to bake more healthfully. This post is part of my Death-Defying Baking series.
Once again, I’ve started with a recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I love her vast collection of baking recipes; it's one of my first “go to” sites when I am looking for ideas for a particular ingredient (e.g. cranberries) or variations on a theme (e.g. zillions of different types of chocolate chip cookies).  Her recipes are meticulously tested, which gives me confidence to make healthy substitutions and expect good results: I know that I am starting with a well-designed recipe. I also find her photographs particularly mouth-watering.

During the holiday season I buy lots of cranberries but often don’t get around to using them all. Luckily, they keep for months in the fridge, which explains why I am still baking with fresh cranberries in March. I bookmarked this Cranberry Cardamom Spice Muffins recipe sometime in the fall, but just got around to baking them today for a COVID-19 isolation breakfast. Some of my variations here are made to healthy-up the recipe but others are based on personal preference and available ingredients.

1 and 3/4 cups (220g) all-purpose flour

SUBSTITUTION (health): I ONLY bake with whole wheat flour.

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cardamom

SUBSTITUTION (personal preference): I used 2 teaspoons for a stronger cardamom flavor.

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

SUBSTITUTION (personal preference): Likewise, I used 1 teaspoon cinnamon for a spicier muffin.

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened

SUBSTITUTION (health): I used 5 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons unsweetened apple sauce to lower the fat and calorie content, as well as add some moisture, which is needed when baking with whole wheat flour.

3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar

SUBSTITUTION (health): I used ¼ cup granulated sugar. I found this more than enough and will use 1/8 cup next time I make these muffins.

2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (120g) sour cream

SUBSTITUTION (health): I used nonfat yoghurt in lieu of sour cream. I do think they’d be delicious with sour cream and might indulge during the holiday season.

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup (80ml) milk

SUBSTITUTION (allergy): My partner is lactose intolerant so I used unsweetened soy milk. I do sometimes use raw milk in baking. I expect that your milky substance of choice would work in this recipe—cow, goat, almond, oat, etc.

zest of 1 orange

SUBSTITUTION (preference): I omitted the orange. Cranberry-orange is a classic flavour combination, but I don't like orange and chocolate together.

1/2 cup (63g) chopped walnuts

SUBSTITUTION (preference): I omitted the walnuts. With rare exceptions, I don't like nuts in baked goods.

1 and 1/2 cups (187g) fresh or frozen cranberries (do not thaw if using frozen)

ADDITION: 2 cups dark chocolate chips

The recipe calls for an orange or maple glaze, which I omitted both to reduce the sugar/calorie content and to keep the flavour focus on the cranberry/chocolate/spice combo.

I was intrigued by Sally’s claim that these muffin cups can be filled right to the top rather than the usual ¾ full because the method of baking at 425F for 5 minutes then turning the heat down to 350F will cause the muffins to rise straight up rather than spill over. I was concerned that my numerous substitutions might have changed the characteristics of the batter in ways that would preclude this supposed rise, but I decided to risk it and filled the muffin cups to the brim. My muffin trays seem to be larger than standard as I never get as many muffins as promised in a recipe. In this case, I got 8 1/2 rather than 12, which is fine as I’d rather have fewer, larger muffins.
They spread a wee bit—you can see the two at the bottom getting a bit amorous and not practicing proper social distancing. But I could not be more pleased with them. The kitchen, and the muffins themselves, smell wonderfully enticing, and the spice/cranberry/dark chocolate combination is heavenly. I put a lot of chocolate chips in, which makes every bite super chocolatey. The cranberry/chocolate combination is a favourite of mine.
It is not hyperbole to say that these are by far the most delicious muffins I have ever made.

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