15 October 2007

Exotic Muffins!

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!


Carver said...

The muffins look delicious Judith.


Hi Judith
As the name says they are exotic indeed..you are too talented especially at your age!!!
I am a sugarcrafter and would be glad to have you visit my site...do give me your feedback.