When I read the "exotic muffins" prompt for Muffin Monday, my first thought was something with chiles and dark chocolate. I love that combination, and it seems exotic enough. But then, the combination of chiles and chocolate has been really popular lately, and I didn't want to blog about the same thing everyone else was doing.
I toyed with a number of combinations. A lot of them had something to do with whisky, strangely enough. After a while, I was so burned out on thinking about what type of muffin would be "exotic" that I had to go to the dictionary. This is what the trusty American Heritage Dictionary gave me for exotic:
1. From another part of the world; foreign: exotic tropical plants in a greenhouse.
2. Intriguingly unusual or different; excitingly strange: "If something can be explained simply, in a familiar way, then it is best to avoid more exotic explanations" (Chet Raymo).
3. Of or involving striptease: an exotic dancer.
As tempting as it was to try and come up with muffins "of or involving striptease," I decided to think about the first two definitions. The first, of course, is relative. "Foreign" depends on your starting point, something that's always been important to me as I study all sorts of social and cultural relativism. And this has an application in food – a lot of the "trendy" dishes are a product of globalization, some sort of a twist on something people have been eating every day for years on the other side of the world. In the second definition, I especially liked the word "intriguing." I wasn't feeling brave enough to concoct a muffin that was "excitingly strange," but intriguing I could handle.
What I came up with was based on my perspective as a pre-teen, when I was both fascinated with all things French and thought that anything French was exotic, unusual, and probably extremely expensive. I dreamed of the days when I might be able to drink wine and eat cheese and chocolate on a regular basis. Of course, now that I'm grown up, I realize these things aren't conducive to a happy waistline, but sometimes we just have to splurge. And thus, my Good Life Muffins were born.
I started with a new purchase from Amazon.com: two shiny and new 12-cup nonstick muffin tins. I'm very excited about my new tins, because as a single person I like to be able to make my desserts in portions small enough to consume in a single sitting without feeling a little queasy afterwards. Muffin tins plus a set of six two-ounce ramekins mean that I'm in business.
Next I thought about how to incorporate those three ingredients – wine, cheese, and chocolate – in a single recipe. Personally, I love the combination of sweet and savory, but I wanted a simple base with the subtle hint of wine to serve as a drawing board for the shocking combination of chocolate and nice, sharp cheese. I especially liked the idea of having chunks of cheese and chocolate that would melt, but retain their basic shape.
I started with an adaptation of a recipe I transcribed long ago from a diet cookbook but never actually tried. You basically just mix a couple cups of variety baking mix, 2/3 cup wine (I used my all-time favourite Cabernet Sauvignon) an egg, and 2 T vegetable oil. If you want a sweeter muffin, you could add some sugar, but I kept things simple. Give the mixture a nice vigorous beating with a fork. It'll be kind of sticky and goopy, and that's okay.
Now, gently fold in your cheese. I went with crumbled Gorgonzola, but you can use anything with a bit of a bite to it. The amount depends on how much flavour you want – for a milder muffin, you can use less cheese or even reserve it at this step and just press a few pieces into each muffin after you pour the batter.
Pour into 12 greased muffin cups or use paper liners. Put a chunk of your favourite dark chocolate in each – I used Dagoba's roseberry, which is not only delicious but also organic. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven and bake 20 minutes or until golden.
The verdict? As I said, the muffin itself is very subtle, with just a hint of cabernet. You could add seasonings of your choice for a variation, or sugar, but I was okay with the subtlety. The chocolate and cheese provided great contrasting bursts of flavour, and they were delicious warm.
So there you have it, folks. Good Life Muffins – exotic, at least, to me. Thanks to Pernille for hosting Muffin Monday!