Muffin-top musings

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BSMbanner_baked-150Faithful 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.

IMG_3545Baked’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 noIMG_3552t 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 IMG_3544spray.  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:

Chocolate Cheesecake Muffins

IMG_3553Don’t forget that you will need to toss out your calorie counter.  Only temporarily… as you devour one… okay, maybe two of these treats.

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.

Crunchy Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Oopsy Daisy Cake

Lime Angel Food Cake with Lime Glaze

(I did, in fact, make this, but did not blog about it; it was a complete flop for me!)

Sunrise Key Lime Tarts

Easy Candy Bar Tart

Turtle Thumbprint Cookies

Bourbon, Vanilla, and Chocolate Milk Shakes

Malted Vanilla Milk Shakes

Milk Chocolate Malt Semifreddo with Chocolate Syrup

Malted Madeleines

Cinnamon Chocolate Souffles

Cheddar Corn Souffle

Poppy Seed Pound Cake with Brown Butter Glaze

Lemon and Black Pepper Quiche

Lemon Pecorino Icebox Cookies

Bananas Cake

Banana Mousse Parfait

Banana Whoopie Pies

Banana Caramel Pudding with Meringue Topping

Banana in a Blanket

…and I did make, but did not blog about:

Classic Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Here are some of my carrot cake photos:

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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!

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5 thoughts on “Muffin-top musings

  1. Mark, I’m so bummed to hear that you are thinking about leaving Baked Sunday Mornings — I always love reading about your take on the recipes! But I hear you on the butter prices — I used to keep a few cases of butter in my fridge, but now I only keep a few pounds at a time. Your muffins look terrific! I think my batter was too thin because I did sprinkle on coarse sugar before baking and it just all got absorbed!

  2. Hopefully once the new book comes out, we will go back to baking every two weeks. I agree, every week is too much. Hope you are still able to bake along with us for some of the recipes.

  3. Yes to baking every other week! It’s just a temporary solution to getting through this book before we start the new one. Agree that it’s a drain on time. But either that or we alternate like we did when Elements came out. Maybe I should tell Matt and Nato to time their book releases to our schedule? :)

    There’s never been any obligation to contribute regularly on Baked Sunday Mornings, so come back when you can or whenever it strikes your fancy.

    Now, on to your muffins. I’m sad that I didn’t add sanding sugar because yours look lovely and crunchy with it! I’m in agreement with your assessment – I think using chips rather than straight white chocolate, plus maybe a slight overbake, contributed to the caramelization. They’re still super pretty inside, though.

    I can give some background to the addition of white chocolate in the recipe, because I’m the one who added it during testing for Elements. :) I made these many, many times, and they were never quite a homerun. During one particularly frantic testing session, I threw some white chocolate chunks into the cheesecake batter because otherwise it was always too dry in contrast to the chocolate. It’s always interesting to see what people think once the recipe is out in the wild. And I always seem to catch things I missed during testing… which is why I think Occasions is going to be so good, since every recipe was tested by multiple people.

    1. You are the bomb. Thanks for the insight, Sheri! I think when I make these again, I will definitely keep a better eye on time and not use the white chocolate chips. I also want to try adding a bit of vanilla to the chocolate batter! I’m sure that these should be better than mine turned out!

  4. I’m with you on the every-other-week sentiments… Trying to be healthier, time and budget have kept me away from the blog, but it’s something I enjoy so much that I hope to get back at it when I can. Tunnel of Fudge is probably not going to happen this week! But your muffins look so awesome, even with the recipe-skimming! Guilty of that over here, too. ;)

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