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Chocolate Glory Muffins baked in unglazed clay flower pots make a festival table presentation. Photo by Sue Doeden

Chocolate Glory Muffins: Cute ... and so good

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As I was leaving my early morning Rotary meeting, one of my fellow Rotarians asked me what recipe was up next.

"Cute little chocolate muffins," I responded. I heard a slight chuckle. With a shake of his head, a playful smile and another chuckle he asked, "How can muffins be cute?"

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I will admit that normally there is nothing very cute about a muffin. But bake the batter in a little clay flower pot and then poke the stem of a bright springtime flower into it - now that's a cute muffin.

Clean, unglazed clay flowerpots can be used for baking. I received my little pots as a gift from a friend years ago. A bag of muffin mix was packaged with the pots.

My clay pots are about 2 1/4 inches high and about that same size across the top. They hold about 1/2 cup, the same amount as the wells in many muffin tins.

To prepare them for baking, I grease the inside of each clean, dry pot with my no-fail mixture of equal parts shortening, flour and canola oil. Then I push a standard foil baking cup into each pot. A paper baking cup can also be used. This will cover the hole in the bottom of the pot and it will ensure that each cupcake will easily slide right out of the pot.

Once the pots are ready, mix up the batter for Chocolate Glory Muffins. The recipe is based on my favorite muffins, moist and filled with grated carrots and apples. Sometimes, though, only chocolate will do. Even at breakfast. I added some cocoa and semisweet chocolate. Each warm muffin offers fruit, vegetable and smooth, soft, melted chocolate.

Spoon batter into each pot, until it reaches about 3/4 of the way to the top. Place the pots in a muffin tin to stabilize them. That's it. They're ready to bake.

To add flowers to the pots, I wrapped the stems with aluminum foil before inserting them into the muffins.

The flower pots can be grouped together to make a springtime centerpiece for the breakfast table. Scatter them around a brunch buffet. I like to place a pot at each guest's plate. I bake some of the muffins in the traditional way and serve them in a basket on the table so that each guest can take the Chocolate Glory Muffin and flower with them when they leave for home.

Oh, cute.

Chocolate Glory Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

1 cup canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 cups grated carrots

1 unpeeled apple, core removed, grated (about 1 cup)

1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin tins by greasing them or lining them with paper or foil baking cups.

Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Set aside.

Beat eggs until light. Add oil, vanilla and sugar and beat mixture until blended. Stir in sifted dry ingredients until thoroughly incorporated. Add carrots, apple, chocolate morsels and nuts and stir to combine. Spoon ingredients into prepared tins. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until muffins test done. They should spring back when you touch the top lightly with a finger.

Remove muffin tins from oven and allow to cool at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the tins and place them on a wire rack to continue to cool.

Tips from the cook

--Once cooled, the muffins can be stored in a tightly sealed container for a few days. They may also be frozen in a tightly sealed container for up to 3 weeks.

--I enjoy these muffins slightly warm, when the chocolate morsels are soft and melt in my mouth with every bite.

--Use a good baking apple. Granny Smith works well. I used Pink Lady.

--If you are baking these muffins in clay flowerpots, baking time will be determined by the size of the pots. Mine baked for 20 to 25 minutes. Batter in larger pots will take longer to bake.

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