Monday, December 15, 2008

Chocolate Muffins with Chestnut Filling

I’m back home for a couple of weeks now to spend Christmas with my family which is a great excuse to get muffin-baking not least because I have plenty to share them with and my muffin tray is at my parents’ place. As a fan of chestnuts especially at Christmas I wanted to incorporate some into a muffin recipe. Chestnut puree is quite often used as a layer in gorgeous Chinese cakes and this combined with the idea of muffins with fillings - think rhubarb muffins with custard inside - led me to chocolate muffins with chestnut filling.

Chestnut puree goes really well with delicate vanilla sponge in Chinese cakes because the cream enveloping the cake tempers the puree down to a lighter, milky chestnut flavour and the fresh fruit topping maintains the lightness of the overall cake. The muffin however lacks this room for manoeuvre so I felt the chestnut needed to be paired with something heady enough not to be overpowered by it, chocolate being the most obvious, although I think coffee would work well too. Chocolate it was and the result went down a treat with my only regret being that I didn’t fill the muffins well enough with the chestnut. I was quite hesitant in putting more than a small-sized blob into each because the chestnut filling was a culmination of guesswork and my faffing with a blender and some chestnuts. The materialisation of my efforts in the bowl therefore initially didn’t taste as good as I was expecting. It was a strange mixture of sickly sweet vanilla and salty however to my relief once baked in the muffins it mellowed out a lot to let the earthy nuttiness come through. My mum who loves chestnuts but has an odd aversion to chocolate still managed to gobble a couple of these down and like me would have preferred more of the chestnut please!

For the chestnut filling

200g roasted chestnuts
1 tbsp icing sugar
150-200ml water, hot from the kettle
Couple of drops of vanilla essence
Tiny pinch of salt

Puree the chestnuts in a liquidiser or blender with the icing sugar and 100ml of the water. I wanted some texture to the filling so I avoided completely blitzing the chestnuts and retained a good amount of coarseness. Scrape puree into a bowl, add the vanilla essence and salt and combine. Add enough of the rest of the water to make a light paste and set aside.

The texture of the filling is down to personal preference but I found that once cooked in the muffins, it became very set which I hoped for over a runny filling (adding butter would have made a more fluid filling I think). The 200g chestnuts made more filling than I needed but next time I make these I plan to incorporate more into each muffin anyway.

For the muffins
Adapted from Muffins Fast and Fantastic by Susan Reimer
Makes 10-11

225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate soda
½ tsp salt
110g caster sugar
4-5 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg
260ml milk – I intend to up this quantity a little next time as the muffins didn’t stay as moist as others I have made before
1 tsp vanilla essence
85g butter or 90ml vegetable oil
100g dark chocolate chips plus more for sprinkling – I use 53.8%

Preheat oven to 190-200˚C (375-400˚F, Gas Mark 6) and prepare muffin tray with muffin cases. In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, sugar and cocoa powder, then add the chocolate chips. In another bowl beat egg with a fork then stir in milk and vanilla, followed by oil/melted butter. Pour all of wet mixture into dry. Stir just until combined and no dry flour is visible. Batter will be runny.

Half fill muffin case with muffin batter. Spoon one slightly heaped teaspoon of chestnut filling onto middle of muffin mix. Cover chestnut filling with more muffin batter and fill to three-quarters full. Sprinkle top with a few chocolate chips. Repeat for rest of muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes or until muffins are risen and tops spring back when pressed gently.

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