Sunday, February 3, 2013

Heath Bar Crunch Muffins

It was snowy and icy this morning, so I was forced to run inside on my rickety home treadmill.  I count myself very lucky to have a place to run when I can't run outside (another example of how staying fit isn't just due to willpower but also due to quite a few environmental factors). Running outside by the ocean is my favorite 'cardio' in the world, and only during one period of my life was I forced to run on the treadmill for an extended period of time, when I was nursing an injury.

To 'transition smart' from the treadmill back to blacktop once I recovered, I decided to try running the track at the local university early in the morning. Tracks have softer surfaces than the streets, even though they are even more boring to run on than the treadmill.

The first day was rather dull and uneventful.  The next day, the security guard of the college pulled up onto the grass to watch me.  Now I can kind of understand why he would watch me for a little while, since I was obviously not a college student and was running alone.  But he watched me THE ENTIRE RUN.  "Doesn't he have somewhere else to patrol, like the dorms where the kids are getting drunk?"

This behavior went on for about four days.  The security guard didn't show up on the fifth day, and I was glad that he had apparently realized I was not a homicidal maniac.  On the sixth, a car pulled up near the track.  A very large man wearing only a thin pair of jogging shorts emerged. I expected him to run, but instead he walked over to the metal bleachers, attached one of those stretchy athletic bands with hand grips to one of the metal supports and began pulling the bands up and down, grunting very loudly in what I can only describe as a very sexual way.

My mind was racing: "why is someone here, before dawn, doing a workout that he can easily do in his home?  Is he coming to the track because it is an 'athletic area' and he thinks you can't work out at home?"  I ran my usual five or six miles and left him there, still grunting and pumping.

Grunting and Pumping Man reappeared for the next three days.  Of course, the security guard did not resurface, when I would have actually liked him to be there.

The next week, the large man did not reappear.  However, midway through my run, I heard some screaming and yelling.  I saw a SUV filled with college students on the driveway that runs 'round the college.  This is not unusual, given that I run in the morning and am used to being accosted by drunk and stoned college students who try to pursue me on foot or offer me potato chips or say: "run Forest, run!" from their crappy cars purchased with their own money or their expensive cars purchased with their parents' money.

But this yelling was different.  It was higher-pitched, visceral and sounded demented like an animal in pain.

The opening to the track is rather wide, and the SUV pulled onto the track and began speeding around right behind me. It was clear that the driver had no intention of stopping.  I threw myself to the center of the track, but then the SUV pulled onto the grass.  It really did seem to be gunning for me, but I managed to roll away, this time to the gravel by the other side of the lanes.  The SUV parked in the grass center of the track.  I crouched, terrified as I heard the inhabitants arguing with one another, then they sped away the same way they left. I suppose they hadn't seen me at all.

I decided to continue my run after that.  If you are a runner, you understand that I had my workout goal and would not be deterred.  Of course, THEN the security guard pulled up and asked me if I had heard any yelling. When I told him what happened, he clearly thought that I was on drugs and demanded MY name and phone number.  I tried to point him in the direction that the SUV was heading, but to no avail.

That happened in spring of 2006, and no matter how many cars and crazies I've met running on the road, I've decided there is nothing crazier than the running track of a college campus. Gyms, however, are a close second.

At least on the roads, I can run away.

These muffins straddle the border between cupcake and muffin in terms of their sweetness level, kind of like how many runners (and college students) straddle the border between sane and insane, although the ease which they come together (no creaming) puts them firmly in the muffin camp.

Heath Bar Crunch Muffins
--yields 10 muffins--

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup full fat Greek yogurt
5 tablespoons of melted butter
1 large, beaten egg

10-15 fun-sized Heath Bars, coarsely chopped or broken

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin with 10 liners
2. Sift the dry ingredients (flour, leavening, salt).
3. Mix the yogurt, butter, and egg together.
4. Incorporate wet and dry mixtures.  Pour into muffin tins (batter will be thick).
5. Top with chopped Heath Bars.
6. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick can be extracted 'clean'


  1. That must have been terrifying. And the security guard was ridiculous. But it's hilarious that you continued your run. I would have gone home, locked the doors, and cried.

    I've been meaning to ask you, do you know what causes a cake to be heavy? Is it the amount of protein in the flour or does it have to do with the leaveners? I made a banana snack cake the other day (an unfrosted cake that you make in an 8" square pan), and texture-wise it's denser than a quick bread. It uses as much flour as a two-layer cake and baking powder but no baking soda, so I'm not sure what needs to be adjusted to make it less brick-like.

  2. @flurrious--I admit to feeling a bit jumpy and nervous for the rest of the day, fearing I was going to be pursued by a car...or the police...

    What recipe did you use? I'm sure the other bakers who read my blog can chime in, but my first thoughts of the likely culprits are you might not have creamed the butter and sugar well enough; over-mixing once you combined the dry and wet ingredients (causing an excess of gluten to form); and using expired baking powder (which causes cakes to rise). But it might be the recipe, not you!

  3. It could be that I didn't cream the butter and sugar enough. I don't have a stand mixer so I tend to go, "that looks good enough!" earlier than probably recommended. Or expired baking powder is also a possibility because they need to make those cans smaller. But I also think it might be the recipe because I've made an apple cake from the same cookbook (America's Test Kitchen) and it was similarly heavy. It just seems like the ratio of dry to wet ingredients is wrong.

    2 c. flour
    2 1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 1/4 c. sugar
    1 stick unsalted butter
    2 eggs
    2 bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
    1/2 c. whole milk
    1 tsp vanilla

    [Yada yada yada, 8" square pan, 350°] And it bakes for 60 minutes. It doesn't come out dry, just super dense. Maybe it's supposed to be this way, but it reminds me of the time when I was 19 or so and made brownies for a boyfriend who ate one and then said, "I'm more used to brownies that are ... good."

  4. @flurrious--it's true that every cooking 'empire' has its own style, and some are obsessed with light and fluffy while others are obsessed with moisture. The ratios on the cake don't seem too weird, although I would probably use less sugar. So I am inclined to think the baking powder might be the reason, especially since it's hard to know how old it was when you bought it, too...

    I Googled to see if anyone had made the cake, and found this link. The blogger said it was successful. She used less sugar but it is more probable that she was looking for a different texture for her cake...

  5. Yes, the cake is too sweet so less sugar was a good call. I checked my baking powder and it's not past its use by date, but I think it's been open for a year so that could very well be it.

  6. Try it again and tell me how it goes! Or I may try it myself. I probably will reduce the sugar. For that much flour, I wouldn't use more than a cup (maybe even 3/4 cup for especially ripe bananas). I've heard complaints that some of ATK recipes are too sweet before.

  7. Haha, that's hilarious! Wow. Maybe this is why I only run around parks.
    These muffins look great

  8. @Cathleen--parks offer an easier 'escape route' than tracks!

  9. That is the first recipe I have seen that combines yogurt and Heath Bars. Mmmm... Heath Bars....

  10. @bittenbyknittin--true confession...I don't drink milk so usually if I use it in a recipe the rest of what I buy ends up going bad. I eat yogurt every day so I prefer using yogurt if I can get away with it. If I can pretend it makes the recipe healthier as well, so be it!

  11. Oh my gosh that is CRAZY. I don't think I've ever experienced anything quite so insane...even running along the central park running path! I would need quite a few of these muffins in order to recover appropriately.

  12. @Joanne-I've never run in Central Park! When I lived in a city, I always felt 'on my guard' and appreciated the safety of transitioning back into the suburbs...but danger can lurk for runners around even the most innocent of corners...

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