Faithful followers of my blog will recall that within the past year and a half, I’ve been pretty good with watching what I eat and exercising. This is no small feat for yours truly, especially given that my diet consists largely of sugar, butter, eggs, flour, and chocolate in various delicious combinations. I managed to whittle myself down about 30-36 pounds within a year, but confess that I’ve probably packed on about 10-15 more in recent months. Still not too bad; I’m at a healthy weight for my age and height and I manage to walk and run as often as I can, with a week or two of cheating once in a while. I’ve successfully run three 5Ks and am training myself for a 10K. I’m grateful that I have gotten myself into these better habits.
Friends have remarked upon my weight loss and said, “How can you bake and eat all of those things you bake – and still stay so THIN?” I won’t go so far as to say I am overly thin, but believe me, it is a struggle that requires lots of self-restraint. This is especially so when it comes to ice cream, potato chips, or making yummy treats like this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings assignment: Chocolate Cheesecake Muffins. I realized going into this that I might be faced with the battle of the good ol’ ‘muffin-top’ (in more ways than the obvious one) all over again, if I’m not careful. A good exercise in self-control is definitely in order.
Baked’s recipe from Baked Elements is pretty simple, but has several steps to it, so plan ahead and read the recipe thoroughly. I have a bad tendency to skim a recipe and – feeling I have a good gist of it – forge blindly ahead. As a result, I made three mistakes with this recipe: I neglected to fold the white chocolate into my cheesecake filling (luckily, I remembered to do so right before assembling the muffins). Then, I forgot to toss my dark chocolate pieces in flour before adding them to the muffin batter to keep them from sinking. Finally, I had to open up the oven while the muffins were baking and reach in to sprinkle each muffin with sanding sugar. Don’t be like me: read your recipe!
The inclusion of a tablespoon of white vinegar in the ingredients is intriguing. Every so often, you may come across a recipe that contains an unusual ingredient and you have to wonder, why was this included? In my past baking experiences, I’ve come to understand that vinegar often adds not only a slight tang of flavor which provides some balance to other flavor notes, but it also provides a bit of tenderness as it interacts with baking powder or soda in a batter. My only guess with this recipe is that it provides the latter.
The recipe yields a dark chocolate muffin which I’m certain on its own is wonderful, but in this instance is jazzed up by the middle pocket of cheesecake, studded with bits of white chocolate. I wasn’t a fan of the white chocolate inclusion and feel that, in all honesty, it can be left out. It may have just been the quality of the white chocolate I used (which was actually Ghirardelli white chocolate chips), but I found that it actually caramelized a bit during the baking process. While ‘caramelized white chocolate’ is a bit of a new rage in baking these days, I’m not sure it produces an attractive result with these muffins. The cheesecake filling on its own would have done quite nicely.
As for the chocolate muffin, it wasn’t quite as decadent as I anticipated. I felt it was lacking something and, despite 2 teaspoons of salt, was a touch bland. I really can’t put my finger on why these didn’t ‘wow’ me all that much. Perhaps it needs a touch of vanilla extract; maybe a teaspoon. They also were a bit dry and could have possibly benefitted from a little more oil to keep them moist. Then again, I suspect I over-baked these, as the cheesecake center was also strangely lacking in moisture and unattractive (see photo above), so take care not to bake these too long. Would I make them again? Quite possibly, but they aren’t a showstopper by any means. I suppose I was expecting these to rise above the ‘humble’ expectations one would associate with muffins, and they really didn’t all that much. That being said, they are fantastic with a good cup of coffee.
One additional note: if you’re a bit skeptical about baking anything straight in a muffin tin, sans liners or baking papers, follow your gut with these muffins and use liners, to be safe. I followed the recipe and baked my muffins right in the tins with a good coating of canola spray. I was able to coax my muffins out of the muffin tins by jerking and shaking the pan while they were still a bit warm (after the 15 minute muffin tin cool-down stipulated in the recipe). It was a bit humorous to do so and have them ‘pop’ out of the tins gradually, one at a time, but I found that there were still several I needed to pry out with a metal icing spatula. Unfortunately, there were also a couple that were unmitigated, stuck-in-the-cup messes I prodded out with my fingers. If I were to make these again, I might use some nice foil or pretty parchment liners. I also yielded about 2 dozen in standard muffin pans, rather than the 1 dozen yield noted in the recipe. I even had some extra cheesecake filling remaining.
If you feel ready to take a slight break in your exercise and diet routine to splurge on one of these muffins, I suggest you try these out and head on over to Baked Sunday Mornings and whip up a batch:
Next week, Baked Sunday Mornings tackles a tempting tunnel of fudge cake from Baked Elements. Given that the fudge is swirled with toasted, chopped hazelnuts, I may need to beg off making this one, as you know I am not a huge fan of nuts (with the exception of almonds or pecans). I’m wondering if a swap-out of hazelnuts for almonds might be acceptable? It’s something to consider.
Believe it or not, the Baked Sunday Mornings crew has nearly completed Baked Elements! We are all very excited for the release of Baked Occasions in October. While I personally have managed to work along with the gang through a majority of Baked Elements, here are the recipes I skipped – either due to dislike of the recipe, or just because I needed to take a hiatus for a bit. If any of these recipes sound tempting to you, please visit Baked Sunday Mornings and read up on how my fellow, talented bloggers fared with them. I’ve set up the links for you. Simply click on the name to view the recipe – “In the Oven” – and check out the other bakers’ results via the “Leave Your Links” or “Round-up” pages.
(I did, in fact, make this, but did not blog about it; it was a complete flop for me!)
…and I did make, but did not blog about:
Here are some of my carrot cake photos:
In this same vein, I do have a final, somewhat sad note to make…
Many of you may have noticed what I have called a ‘catastrophic’ rise in butter prices recently. As butter is basically an essential bedrock of most baking, I unfortunately may need to cut back on my baking activity for a while – at least until the prices are somewhat reasonable for me to afford again.
This does come at an interesting time, however, as – with the impending release of Baked Occasions – I am considering no longer doing Baked Sunday Mornings. Honestly, the weekly baking schedule is too much, time and expense-wise. I have enjoyed blogging and posting with this fabulous group of folks, but do not feel it is feasible that I continue. Rest assured, when they are scheduled, I will be sure to post blogs and photos for the recipes I tested for the book, and I will also return from time to time when a recipe really piques my interest, but I’m not sure I can bake my way through the entire book with the group. With my full-time 9 to 5 job plus play rehearsals, finding the time to whip up a recipe, write about it, take photos, edit, and post the blog has become a bit too much to squeeze in. If you subscribe to my blog, please stay tuned for many future wonderful things in store, as I don’t intend to completely go away. I just may not be here as often as I would like.
Thank you to all of you for your understanding. I feel so fortunate and lucky to have so many fans of Neufangled Desserts! Happy baking!