Posts Tagged With: cinnamon

White Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

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With Labor Day on its way out the door and schoolchildren taking its place, classic snacks are on the brain.  Parents in this modern age are determined to nourish their offspring with “healthy snack” – you know, those that crunch like carrots and don’t contain trans fats, packaging, or any other frivolities.

I’m not saying throw away dreams of good calories and vitamins abound…but when I came home from school as the leaves turned brown, I wanted a cookie.  Yes, I was “that kid.”

The chocolate chip cookie dipped in milk is classic and (taking a hint from the many clothing advertisements cropping up this season…) classic never goes out of style. As such, I admit to having cookie brain lately…where at many moments during the day, I crave a cookie.  The presence or absence of a cookie wreaks havoc on emotions – just take a look at cookie monster ! Happiness and sadness hinge upon the presence of one, buttery morsel lying at the bottom of the jar.

Some kind of goodie clearly had to be made…so I landed upon a white chocolate chip pecan cookie. Soft and chewy with a little burst of spice from time to time, these treats are perfect for that 2pm lull when coffee calls and you seek an energy burst.  Or when you get home off the train and can’t yet imagine dinner. Even breakfast (if you throw caution to the wind !) justifies a nibble.

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Now, I’ll admit:  I like white chocolate BUT I use it to appease those who can’t sleep at night after having eaten “real” chocolate…as a result, I stirred in a handful of semi-sweet chips to the recipe at the end…as I don’t have any problem snoozing after cookie consumption.

Whether you suffer from cookie brain or not, this spin on the classic chocolate chip delight is sure to leave you (or your children) grinning.

Ingredients: 

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1/2 chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter until light and smooth.  You can do this with an electric mixer or by hand.

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Add the white and brown sugar, whipping until lightened in color and almost pillowy.  Add the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition.  Don’t worry if your batter adopts a strange texture – this often happens if the eggs are not room temperature.  Their chilly, refrigerated state makes the butter cringe.  It is okay – adding the flour will make everyone get along. Toss in the two teaspoons of vanilla and give the mess a whirl.  Be sure to scrape down the sides from time to time – make sure all the butter is getting incorporated into the batter.

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In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.  I enjoy the snickerdoodle-esque (quite the adjective) quality cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice bring to these cookies.  Makes me feel a little like Remy in Ratatouille.  It offsets the pecan nicely – very much a fall flavor.  If, however, you prefer the more standard flavor profile, you can skip them and no harm will come to the cookies.

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Slowly add the flour mixture in to the batter, being careful not to mix too quickly (or else flour will be everywhere in the kitchen – EVERYWHERE.  Like this). Once combined, stir in the pecans and the chocolate chips.  Taste.  Whatever anyone ever told you about not eating the batter is to be ignored.

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On a baking sheet (which you may or may not line with parchment paper – it’s up to you), drop the cookies by tablespoonful.  I like to shape them into rounds but it’s definitely not an exact science…they will spread out a bit so be sure to leave about an inch to two inches of space between each bit of dough.

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Bake for 10-15 minutes but be sure to use your nose: once you can smell the cookies, chances are good that they are done. I prefer soft bites but if you like crispy cookies, by all means cook them longer.

Once out of the oven, remove them from the baking sheet and let them cool on a wire rack…but remember – warm, just-out-of-the-oven cookies are the best, so you should probably eat one or two.  With some milk.  Just a “serving suggestion”. 🙂

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As for the rest, save them for snacking and relieving cookie brain symptoms !  Bon appétit !

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Plum Tart with Greek Yogurt

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Fall is in full swing and in this swanky apartment we’re eating…PLUMS !

I know, I know…plums ?  Aren’t you supposed to be making pumpkin-themed everything ?

Yes yes, plums !  Pumpkin is so passé* – everyone is devouring pumpkin goods.  Time to give those plums a little lovin’ !  Perhaps this post of positively pleasant “P” sounds presents a perfect place for plum pizzazz !

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In any case, it is true that plum season extends into early fall – October – and I am, for the first time, taking advantage of this fact.  I used to dislike plums.  Well, perhaps dislike isn’t the proper term.  Ignore may be a better one.  Plums were, in a word, strange. Why ?  Because they morph into prunes, that’s why.  I couldn’t bring myself to eat either fruit.  It was strange, therefore, when I walked into Trader Joe’s, saw a “basket” of plums looking for a home, felt spontaneous and snatched them up and POW a memory popped in my head:  for my birthday, while in France forever ago, my host dad, Pierre, made me a birthday dessert. Considering my host family and I were not particularly chummy, I was very touched by the gesture.  A beautiful, rustic plum tart sat in front of me, paired with a book about Dijon.  I can’t believe I’d buried that memory so deep, and it took a basket of unassuming plums to trigger it.

So then I had it.  The IDEA.  I would make a plum tart for my birthday…hence, here is my birthday “cake” thrown together with little time to spare before a 20s’-themed bash !  As you can tell, from the top picture, it was devoured in record time.  It’s a quick fix (if you buy your crust, and I did…I know, tsk tsk) that is pleasantly tart and lightly spiced.  This recipe uses a Greek yogurt “custard” topping, but I think, were I to remake it (and there are still a few dusty plums kicking around my cuisine…) I would skip the cream and make the tarte tout simplement avec des prunes.

I used the recipe from Mary Anna Esposita, the woman who taught me more about tomatoes via her great cooking show “Ciao Italia” than I think I needed to know as an 8 year-old.

Here’s the original recipe; the one noted below is with my adjustments.
Ingredients :
7 plums, cut into slices
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Sprinkle ginger
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup greek yogurt (plain)
3 tbsp additional sugar
Preheat the oven to 400F.  If you are making your own crust – you are fabulous and better than me this go around.  Prepare the crust and place it in a greased tart pan (or pie dish, or quiche pan – whatever you have will probably do).  I’d give the crust a little toast before placing the plums, but it is not required and the tart will not combust or fail to cook in time if you don’t.
Slice the plums into fairly thin sections – I made mine into little segments (like a fan, kind of) in order to make the tart look nice.  You are welcome to cut the plums in a less careful manner and throw them in the pan.  Taste will not be affected.  You can’t judge a book by its cover.  Right ?  Right.
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Arrange the plums in concentric circles (if desired) in the bottom of the pie pan.  I started in the “middle” and worked my way out.
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In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar and the spices, stirring well to combine.
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Dust the plums with the sugar mixture – don’t be afraid to really bury them !  As the plums cook and release water, it will mix with the sugar combination to make this wonderful caramel-like substance at the bottom of the tart.  It’s delicious with ice cream.  Yummmmmm.  Top with the juice of the lemon – I just gave that citrus fruit a good squeeze directly overtop the plum and sugar combination.
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Place this in the oven until the plums are soft – about 10 minutes – then remove from the oven.  You are WELCOME to just eat this as your tart and not continue.  It looks so good, I have half a mind to try it like this with my remaining plums….
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In another bowl, whisk together the 3 tbsp of sugar, egg yolks, and yogurt.  Pour this mixture over the tart, being sure to work from the inside out and try to evenly distribute the custard.  Place the tart back into the oven and cook for about 10 more minutes or until the custard has set- you should be able to touch the top and pull a little of the custard out on your finger.  It’s sort of in a semi-solid state.
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Let the tart cool a little before serving to your hungry party guests !
Bon appétit ! 🙂
*I hold nothing against pumpkin goods…in fact, I’ve been cooking them a lot.  I just wanted to be DIFFERENT.
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Sour Cream Coffee Cake

 

I have a lovely friend, Zachary, whom I rarely see for more than 30 seconds at a time.  He has the most fantastic speaking voice I have ever heard, and for some reason, whenever we cross paths, I have a tendency to let out my New York accent (I hail from Boston, so this manner of speaking is entirely foreign and just a voice I imitate), singing “ZACHARYYYY !” from across the room/street/hallway/take your pick.  In order to spend a little more “quality time” together, he suggested brunch.  What to make, what to make….Ooh !  I know !

Cawfeee cake !

My mom used to make this when I was little and bring it over to the relatives’ place for Easter morning nibbles. I thought it would be an appropriate addition to the Sunday brunch spread, as it isn’t a light cake – made with sour cream, it’s very moist and delicious with (what else?) coffee ! (Or tea, if you prefer a little Earl Grey in your life).  The mixture of cinnamon, oatmeal, and sugar on top is divine – I often add more than the recipe calls for.  Also – I did not have pecans in my pantry BUT chopped nuts are a must (if you like them) as they bring a little texture to the cake.

For the topping:

1/2 cup granulated or brown sugar, or 1/4 cup each
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup rolled oats

Put the flour, cinnamon, salt, sugar, cloves, and nutmeg in a small bowl and mix with a fork until crumble.  Add the nuts and oats and stir to combine.  Set aside.

For the batter:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream or plain yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
A sprinkling of cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease one 9-inch square pan,9-inch Bundt or tube pan, or 9-inch springform pan.  When I say grease, I am not joking,  Don’t skimp on the butter or the oil or the Pam when greasing this pan – my Bundt pan is old and dented and definitely not non-stick and I got my cake out just fine; however, know that it isn’t always easy given the nature of the topping.  You have been warned !

In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. It’s not easy to do in a whisk – your arm will be sleepy – but it’s worth it as this smooth incorporation will affect the texture in a positive way later (light and fluffy!).

Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Blend in the sour cream and vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

Assembly :

Spread half of the batter in the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula to make it even and flat.

Sprinkle with half of the streusel mixture – again, smoothing with the back of a spoon to keep the layer relatively level.

Carefully cover with the remaining batter and…

…sprinkle with the remaining streusel.

Bake until the cake is golden and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 50 minutes. It takes a long time to cook, but you’ll smell it when it is done – the top may also crack a little bit.  Set on a rack and let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes. To remove from the Bundt pan, “run” a knife around the edges (really, just poke knife down the sides and lift a small bit all the way around the cake pan).  Turn the cake out onto a plate and tap the bottom.  If it doesn’t come out, run the knife around the edges again.  Tap tap tap. It should pop out with a little patience.

I prefer to serve this warm with a hot beverage but it’s just as good cold.  Gather your Sunday morning buddies, give them a cawl for cawfee cake and have a bawl !

Bon appétit !

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Vegan Chocolate Cake with Blackberry Filling and Spiced Chocolate Buttercream

Yes, you read the title right.

Vegan chocolate cake.  Vegan buttercream.  Vegan dessert.

I think I am probably the most omnivorous person around – I really love all types of food.  Meat, milk, fish, vegetables, sugar (obviously)…the list goes on.  Baking with limitations, therefore, is not my forte.  However, one of my closest friends is vegan, choosing to eliminate all sorts of ingredients commonly found in sweet delights from her diet (which totally amazes me.  I could never do it, so PROPS TO YOU, Miss Bailey !).  When her birthday rolled around, I was DETERMINED to concoct a vegan-friendly dessert…for what is a birthday without cake ??  Though it was definitely an adventure for me (the ingredients list is more exotic than normal…did you know vegan butter exists ?!  Super cool !), the end result was pretty tasty – I would definitely make the cake again.  While I’ll admit that it feels strange to make a cake without eggs, the texture is exactly the same as any chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten and I bet a blind taste test would fool you.

In order to make the cake a little interesting, I chose to fill the center layer with blackberry jam and add spices to the frosting – there is nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves added to the frosting to bring in a little texture and round out the cocoa flavors.

Give it a try – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  🙂

For the cake :

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup natural cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
A few shakes of cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper.  Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the soy milk, vinegar, sugar, oil, and vanilla. I know, it looks a little odd – vinegar and olive oil usually connote salad dressing – but I promise it works out in the end !

Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a spoon until well combined.

Spoon or scrape the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for 40 to 55 minutes.  You’ll know it’s done when you smell the cake and a fork comes out clean.

Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen before inverting the cake onto a wire rack (or if you are a lowly college student, on a plate dusted with confectioners’ sugar) to cool.

For the filling :

Blackberry jam – I used about 1/3 of a jar….but this part is entirely subjective – use as much or as little as you please.  Also, I think that raspberry jams would be DELICIOUS in place of blackberry.

For the frosting :

1/2 stick vegan butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup cocoa powder (more or less depending on your love of bitterness)
1/4 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves

In a large bowl, whisk the vegan butter until it’s creamy.  Add the cocoa powder first, blending slowly until well incorporated (start slow simply to avoid cocoa powder explosions…that fine dust tends to make me sneeze when it clouds the air).  Add the vanilla and the powdered sugar, adding the soy milk when necessary to assure a good texture. Add the spices last.

Make sure to taste along the way to make sure everything is to your liking – I gave my ratios of spices BUT THEY ARE APPROXIMATE as I tend to make it up as I go, adding a dash of this and a dash of that until I find the taste I prefer.  It’s good to be spontaneous.  🙂

Assembly :

First, center one layer of the cake on a plate that has been dusted with powdered sugar.  This will be useful when the time come to cut the cake, as each slice will be easy to remove.

Using a flat metal spatula, (or a knife…again…I lack proper tools) spread a very thin layer of the frosting on the cake.  As we are going to add jam, this thin coating of frosting will keep the cake from going soggy on the inside.

Once evenly distributed, add the jam, spreading with the back of a spoon.  I love jam, so I was rather liberal with the amount I put on the inside…it is your call.

Prepare the second cake layer by spreading another thin layer of frosting on the side that will touch the jam.  Once ready, flip this layer onto the jam layer. It’s a process but it isn’t that difficult – if you miss, just pick the cake up and put it back on.  No harm done !

Cover the rest of the cake with the frosting.  Dust the top with a combination of the spices used in the frosting – it looks classy and tastes good, too.

We obviously decorated ours with candles….

Happy Birthday, Bailey & Ambika and bon appétit !

 

 

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Cinnamon Rolls

In an effort not to consume too many sweets, my roommates and I seem to have decided not to stock sugary goodies in our kitchen.  In theory, this is a splendid arrangement – if there are no naughty foods, we cannot eat naughty foods. Right ?

WRONG !

I simply love sugar too much to let that happen (probably to everyone’s chagrin) and therefore in a moment of weakness, whipped up some cinnamon rolls for a Friday morning breakfast (and a Saturday…and a Sunday…you get the idea).  I love these rolls because they do not require yeast and therefore a very simple to concoct.  Traditionally, these pair well with a sweet glaze made from mascarpone cheese and a little powdered sugar…but I’m not really THAT fancy (yet) here in my little apartment so I skipped that part.  Also noteworthy – the recipe calls for brown sugar but, again, I didn’t have any and therefore used turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw – thank you Trader Joe’s !).  It turned out JUST FINE 🙂

Filling :

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (or about 1 cup of raw sugar)
1/2 cup pecans (if available)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 stick butter, melted

This is the easiest part – combine all dry ingredients.  Set aside.

Dough :

3 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (or regular milk)
8 tbsp melted butter

Preheat the oven to 425F and butter an oven pan.  Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, making a little moat in the middle.  I don’t know why you must make this little indentation, but my mother told me to do so when I was very small and I guess I never questioned her judgement until now…hmm….

In any case, heat the milk slightly so that it is warm to the touch.  Pour the melted butter into the milk and stir.

Pour this buttermilk mixture into the moat and stir with a spoon.

Add flour to the dough until it is easy to knead.  I recommend turning the dough out onto a floured surface and kneading a little bit – once you can fairly easily work with the dough – it has taken enough flour.  Three cups should be enough, however.

When ready, begin to stretch the dough across a FLOURED countertop.  I did mine right in the pan I was going to cook it in as I used a jellyroll pan.  I also have limited counterspace…so this was my solution.

Once you’ve stretched it out to a large rectangle size, pour half the melted butter on top of the dough.  Cover with an even coating of the sugar and spice mixture.  Finish with a final butter bath.  Mmm.  Butter.

Starting at the edges, begin to roll the dough from the bottom up, being careful not to press too hard as if you do so, the filling will eek out the edges of the roll.  No fun.

Once you’ve rolled it all the way up, pinch the sides a little to seal them up a bit and take out a long, serrated knife.

Cut the roll into sections, making a quick cut through the dough.  I like to pull the knife towards me in a speedy, downward swoop !  However, I didn’t have a serrated knife…so mine were a little lumpy BUT they tasted great just the same.

Place these closely together on a large pan (I like the jelly roll pan but using a cake pan or a square brownie pan works great as well !) and place in the oven.  Cook until the roll is just starting to brown, probably about 25 minutes.

Pour yourself a cuppa joe (or a spot of tea) and enjoy !

Bon appétit !

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Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Muffins

Sometimes, you just have a bad day.
And I mean a terrible day.
Nothing goes right, you’re cranky, irritable, fed-up and frustrated.
So was Monday of this past week…an evening spent ignoring all homework, unable to focus, glued to facebook….

What does any of this have to do with cooking ?

EVERYTHING!

Because had I not been so downright pissed, I wouldn’t have made these muffins which you are about to discover – the best cure for a case of the grumpies : Pumpkin chocolate-chip muffins.  My mom often made this during the month of October (or just in autumn really) as a treat for my sister and I when we got back from school after a rough morning, so I figured they would be my best bet at regaining a little joie de vivre.   These muffins, best served warm, are an excellent compliment to a cup of tea on a chilly afternoon.  The pumpkin is accentuated nicely by a blend of spices, often called “pumpkin pie spice,” consisting of ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.  So – get rid of that awful day ! Roll up your sleeves, grease the muffin tin, and get some cheap (cooking) therapy.

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Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Muffins

1 3/4 cups of flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup butter (melted)
1 cup of chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Before mixing anything together – make sure to grease the muffin tin. Muffins are funny – unlike cupcakes, they do not have handy little liners to ensure a clean escape from the pan.  As a result, they often stick and refuse removal.  Do yourself a favor – even if you have a nonstick pan, use the wrapper form the stick of butter you are going to melt and just quickly wipe the inside of each cup.  You can also use a nonstick spray, such as Pam, to oil the tin.In one bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt (if desired) and pumpkin pie spice.OH !  A word on that spice mixture.  Pumpkin pie spice can be bought in supermarkets but I rarely have it on hand simply because I like to “personalize” my spice blends.  The spices involved here are CLOVES, CINNAMON, NUTMEG and GINGER and maybe ALLSPICE.  Ground cloves are very strong – a little goes a long way.  Nutmeg is a spice that is used in both sweet AND savory dishes and goes very well with fruits.  Cinnamon is fairly common – I tend to add more cinnamon than called for in a recipe as I find the flavor pleasant.  Ginger is the star of items like gingerbread (surprise) in the baking world and asian cuisine in the cooking world.  Like cloves, it tends to be powerful so again – less is more.   I love cloves and nutmeg, so I am more heavy-handed with these spices in my recipes.  You have been warned.

SO – if you have these lovely additions on hand in your kitchen, add the following amounts to the flour mixture :

2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger

Mix the dry ingredients together so that they are well-incorporated and set this aside.

On the stovetop (on in the microwave…), melt the butter.  Measure out the pumpkin and put this in a large mixing bowl.  Add the butter to the pumpkin, mixing well.  Continually stirring, pour the sugar into the pumpkin mixture, stirring until the mixture has lightened slightly and looks smooth.  To this, add both eggs and vanilla, again stirring until everything is uniform.

Take the dry ingredients and fold them into the wet ingredients, mixing until JUST COMBINED.  The tough bit about muffins is…well…they can get tough.  Literally.  Over-mixing the dough will make for an unpleasantly dense and almost elastic texture that should be avoided.

Add the chocolate chips.  The recipe suggests 1 cup – I say it’s your call.  If you love chocolate, go ahead and add a bit more. If you prefer pumpkin, do not add as many.  Simple.  🙂

Using a spatula, slowly portion out the dough into the muffin cups.  Be careful not to fill each cup to the brim as it will overflow and consequently burn.  Regular muffin pans are a pain to wash…burned ones are a nightmare SO this is to be avoided.  I suggest filling each cup until about 2/3 full.  If you have extra batter (it happens) fill the muffins on the edges, rather than the middle, first.  These will have a tendency to cook faster and therefore if fuller than the muffins on the inside, will not be dry.

Cook for 15 – 20 minutes or until the muffins are springy to the touch.  Allow them to cool for 10 minutes before removing or eating.  If you attempt to take them out right away, they might fall apart.  Better to err on the safe side.  Also – you’ll burn your tongue.  Can’t you hear your mother now ?

Happy nibbling !

Categories: English | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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