Chocolate muffins that really taste like chocolate and stay fresh for days are rare! This recipe works thanks to some neat tricks like hot milk to make the cacao bloom and a little coffee to enhance the chocolate flavor (it doesn’t taste like coffee). Using brown sugar, oil, sour cream and less eggs is the secret to keeping the crumbs super moist and tender!
Chocolate muffins are not all created equal. I’m fussy about mine and make no apologies about it – there are a lot of calories in a muffin, so every one of them better be worth it! Here’s my laundry list of things a great chocolate muffin needs to have. It must:
- Have a lovely crisp dome
- Be tender and moist inside
- Truly taste of chocolate
- Be quick and easy to make (as muffins should be!)
- Not include obscure or just plain weird ingredients
- Stay fresh for 3 days
Be still good for even another 2 days after that!
While this list of chocolate muffin characteristics might sound obvious to you, finding a recipe that ticks all these boxes is much harder than you think! In fact, in my whole cooking life, I have never come across a keeper.
(For years!) After years of trying, I finally pulled myself together and made a commitment to pursue the ultimate chocolate muffin recipe, even if it killed me. In the end, it was a bunch of easy baking tricks that came together to create what I envisioned as the perfect chocolate muffin.
Chocolate muffins are notoriously dry due to cocoa powder. But not this!
The simple baking tricks for the BEST Chocolate Muffins ever!
Here’s the complete list of the simple tricks that make all the difference in this recipe. An explanation of the why behind each of these is in the ingredients section below.
- 1 egg rather than the usual 2 eggs;
- Brown sugar instead of white sugar;
- Oil instead of butter;
- Sour cream instead of milk;
- Coffee to enhance chocolate flavour (optional);
- Dutch-process cocoa powder for more intense chocolate flavour (optional);
- Blooming the cocoa powder with hot milk;
- Thinner batter than the usual muffin batters; and
- Briefly bake on a high temperature then lower temperature to finish!
Ingredients in Chocolate Muffins
Here’s what you need to make these Chocolate Muffins. If you’re wondering – coffee? Did she make mistake? Read on below for why!!
- As for making the dome crisp? I wasn’t willing to give that up! So I just blast the muffins at a slightly higher temperature for the first 5 minutes which helps give it a nice crispy dome. Now we get the best of both worlds!
- Baking soda (bi-carb) – This makes the muffins rise slightly better than using baking powder, while preserving the intense dark chocolate colour of the crumb. Baking powder does also work perfectly fine (use 4 teaspoons) but the muffins rise slightly less and give a slightly paler crumb colour.
- Vanilla – Just a touch, for flavour! Vanilla extract is fine to use here and is preferable to artificial vanilla flavouring. You can use real vanilla beans or vanilla bean paste, but you won’t waste them in this recipe.
- Sour Cream – Another baking trick. This allows moisture to be introduced into the dough, but the dough remains thicker than, for example, using more milk. should be thicker.
- You can also use yogurt instead of sour cream.
- Wheat Flour – Regular/All Purpose Flour. Self raising flour does work in place of using plain flour + baking soda as done here, but the muffins don’t rise quite as well. (I’d still use self raising flour if that’s all I had, though.)
- Chocolate chips – I use dark chocolate chips (called semi-sweet chips in the US) but any type of chocolate chips will work just fine here. Or chopped chocolate! Just be sure to use baking chocolate (from the baking aisle), not eating chocolate. The latter is not made for cooking in the oven and funky things happen when you do!
- Salt – Just a touch, it brings out the flavour in baked goods. Standard practice!
How to make Chocolate Muffins
The nice thing about these muffins is that you don’t need to be as careful about not over-mixing the batter (which causes a dry muffin) because this batter is not as thick as most muffin batters.
- Sift Dry ingredients – Sift flour, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. I don’t typically bother sifting flour for muffins, but seeing as we’re sifting cocoa anyway, I figure we may as well. Using the same sifter for the cocoa without cleaning the flour off is fine.
- Sift cocoa powder into a separate bowl.
- Bloom cocoa – Add the coffee powder and hot milk to the cocoa and give it a good whisk. This step of adding a hot liquid (usually boiling water) to cocoa powder makes the cocoa “bloom”, bringing out its flavour. It’s an age-old baking trick, one I use for things like Chocolate Cake and my Fudge Cake.
- Finish batter – Whisk in remaining wet ingredients (oil, sour cream, vanilla, egg, sugar – yes, sugar is classified as a “wet” ingredient in baking!) with the cocoa.
- Then pour this mixture into the flour and whisk. Initially, after the flour is incorporated, the batter will look a bit split (ie. it’ll have fine oil streaks). Whisk until it’s smooth and glossy, but stop once it is. Don’t keep mixing on blindly! This will overwork the gluten in the flour and make your muffins tough rather than pillowy soft! That said, this batter is thinner than most muffins batters so it’s more failsafe in this regard.
Stir in most of the chocolate chips – reserved about 1/4 cup for topping.
Note: This batter is THINNER than typical muffin batters. This is one reason why these cupcakes have a much more tender and moist crumb than the usual chocolate muffins.
Fill muffin cases. Use an ice cream scoop with a lever if you have one. This is a super-handy tool for muffins, cupcakes, fritters, even meatballs!
Do not overfill! Fill the muffin cases up to 0.5cm / 0.2″ from rim of paper liner. Don’t fill any higher as the muffin will overflow when baked since this batter is quite thin. (see Note 5)
Top with reserved chocolate chips. Just pile them in the middle, they will spread out as the muffin rises.
Bake at HIGH temp 5 minutes – Bake for 5 minutes at 210°C / 410°F (190°C fan). Starting off at a slightly higher temperature gives the muffins a kick start on the rise (required for this thinner batter) and gives the muffins a crunchier top.
Bake at LOW temp 20 minutes – Turn oven DOWN to 190°C / 375°F (170°C fan) then bake further 20 minutes. So, 25 minutes in total