I was intrigued by this recipe of Nigella Lawson's for chocolate chocolate chip muffins. Unlike most recipes for just about every baked good on the web, one of the complaints in the 'comments' sections was that it wasn't sweet enough.
I'm a bad judge of bitterness. I fail every standard for 'supertasting.' I like bitter vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. I began drinking coffee without milk when I was thirteen years old. I like dark chocolate, walnuts and almonds. Ironically, despite a fondness for liverwurst and provolone cheese as a child, I was probably more of an elite supertaster back then. Even white potatoes seemed bitter to my tastebuds, I loathed all vegetables, and if you had served me a bowl of frosting, I would have eaten it with a spoon. I blanched at the taste of wine, and while I don't drink as an adult, I do like the taste of balsamic vinegar.
|Proof that I once did have a carefree side, free of bitterness. And I did know how to smile!|
I suppose my palate has matured, but sometimes I wonder if my tongue has grown coarse and bitter with my character. Even when I'm in yoga class, my instructor tells me to smile. I find myself arguing with him: surely in yoga class I'm allowed to be in touch with my authentic, unsmiling self rather than grin like I'm auditioning for Annie?
I find people judge others on their perceived happiness scale all of the time. Like, I'll mention the name of an author or an actress I think is quite talented but perhaps a teeny bit tormented and the inevitable response will be: but I don't think they are really happy! Like that 'disqualifies' their accomplishment. Or I'll be angst-ing about what I lack in my own life and character and the response will be: but will that make you really happy?
I've never thought of happiness as a permanent state, much less a responsibility (smile! be happy)! I personally think that because human life by definition is in a state of constant change, I doubt I'll ever live in a permanent state of happiness and doesn't make me feel as if I'm bad or unappreciative. And I just don't understand the mentality of someone who listens to Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony who thinks: sure, this music is okay, but was he really happy? I THINK NOT!
My goal has always simply been to lead an exciting life. That is definitely a work in progress. Still, I think that a little discontent, a little restlessness, a little hunger, even a little bitterness ( provided it is tempered with a good sense of humor is good) for the soul. Or at least for something.
I made Nigella's muffins and ignoring the commentators, I deferred to her preference for minimal sugar and even replaced the milk with coffee. The resulting muffin tastes very intense and is for dark chocolate aficionados only. It's the type of muffin an existentialist philosopher or poet might read, pouring over a dense text or watching The Seventh Seal at night. Would the muffin make Sartre, Kierkegaard, or the star of an Ingmar Bergman film happy? I can't say, but I think it might.
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Coffee Muffins
--yields 8-12 muffins--
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup powdered sugar (Nigella used superfine sugar, and see Anna's notes in the comments below for why this yielded such a spectacular 'muffin top').
1 cup coffee
1/3 cup plus two teaspoons vegetable oil
1 beaten large egg
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling on top
1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Line the muffin tin.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, and sugar together.
3. Mix the coffee, oil, and egg in a separate bowl, gradually incorporate the dry mixture. Fold in 1/2 a cup of chocolate chips.
4. Pour into the liners, sprinkle the remaining chips on top of the muffins.
5. Bake for approximately 20 minutes.