Chocolate Chip Pecan Muffins

I came up with this recipe as a variation on the basic muffin from “The Joy of Cooking”. I like it because it actually feels like a muffin rather than a hearty cupcake. This recipe is part whole wheat, making it a bit more nutritious.

The ingredients are as follows:

0.5 cups whole wheat flower
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 heaping Tbsp baking powder
0.5 tsp salt
0.25 tsp nutmeg
0.5 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
0.5 cups vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup chopped pecan
1/2 cup chocolate chips

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Measure the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and sift them into a bowl.

Add the eggs, oil, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract to a different bowl, and whisk to combine.

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Now, pause for a bit of baking chemistry. Muffins are the ultimate science lesson. First question: Why do we keep the solids and liquids apart?

There are two parts to this answer. Firstly, some baking powders react when they come in contact with liquids, starting to rise immediately. Others won’t rise until they are heated, and yet others do both. It really depends on what baking powder you’re using, but to keep the baking powder from loosing it’s leavening power, we keep it dry until we want it to start rising. Secondly, once flour gets wet, any stirring or kneading causes gluten to form. Gluten is created when two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, which are found in wheat flour, combine into chains called gluten. In bread, gluten is what allows a nice, slow rise, and what holds the shape of the bread. In muffins, gluten makes the muffin rubbery and full of holes. To prevent gluten from forming, we add the water as late as possible, and keep stirring down to a minimum.

Second Question: What science-y stuff do eggs do in the liquid ingredients?

Eggs have the unique property of being emulsifying agents. We are using both oil and milk, which is basically flavored water. Normally, these will not mix well, no matter how much whisking you do. The eggs stabilize the oil in the water, allowing them to mix smoothly and keeping them from separating after you mix them. Also, eggs coagulate, or solidify, when they are heated, helping to keep the muffin together (along with small amounts of gluten).

Now back to the recipe: Preheat an oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir the pecan and chocolate chips into the dry ingredients. Oil a muffin tin.

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Once the oven is warm, add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir, but not more than absolutely necessary. “Joy of Cooking” says 10-20 seconds of stirring, I count about 20 stirs. The batter will be lumpy.

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Scoop the batter into a muffin tin. I like the “Texas Size” or large tins. This recipe will fill one tin more or less perfectly.

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Place them in the oven, and bake for 25  minutes. You can test with a fork to see if it comes out clean. Remove the tin from the oven, but let it cool for a few minutes before removing the muffins. Once they cool a bit, they should come right out of the tin. Then you can move them to a cooling rack, or serve warm.

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Enjoy these tasty muffins, and comment if you have any recipes you would like to share!

‘Till next time,

The Homesteading Hippy

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