One of my favorite parts about living in Mexico was… the food. Not surprising, if you know me, but at least two parts of my Mexican-food-in-Mexico experience are worth mentioning. First: Mexican food in Mexico has almost no relationship to most Mexican food in the States. OK, maybe that’s being harsh… but most Mexican food in the Midwest, at least, derives its flavor from heaps of greasy cheese. Mexican food as I experienced it in the homes of my friends as well as the plentiful food carts serving drool-worthy tortas, tamales, and above all tacos (always soft, whether made with corn or flour tortillas), is intensely flavorful, not intensely oily. The flavor punch is delivered not only by spice, but also by citrus (lime, usually), cilantro, slow-cooked meats of all kinds, and raw onions (which, not by accident, are also good for your digestion). I could go on and on… but I’ll save most of this rant for another post. Suffice it to say that while this kind of food can be found in the U.S., it’s not going to be at any place with a drive-through window or a sombrero-wearing waiter trying to embarrass you on your birthday.
I bet your wondering what all this has to do with the very enticing muffin pictured above. Let me proceed quickly to point #2 about real Mexican food: Mexican chocolate. The first time my host mom made me Mexican hot chocolate, I was hooked. Mexican drinking chocolate is as spicy as it is sweet, and the spice gives it an exotic taste that is just difficult to put your finger on. The spicy-sweet richness is just plain seductive. You can actually buy Mexican chocolate in most grocery stores nowadays, but since that chocolate is for drinking and this blog is about baking, I’ve been trying to think of ways to bring this awesome flavor combination to you all.
This (finally) brings us to the muffins. A good start on the Mexican chocolate flavor combination is to add some cinnamon to dark chocolate. For months now, I have been trying every recipe I can find that combines chocolate and cinnamon, but to be honest, no recipe has gone far enough to suit my taste buds! One teaspoon of cinnamon in a cake that fits a 9×13 pan isn’t going to cut it. So I struck out on my own, and modified a chocolate chip muffin recipe that I found on Recipezaar to accommodate not only extra cinnamon in the batter, but also a cinnamon-sugar-chocolate chip layer midway through the muffin and the same combination on top.
The results were awesome! The cinnamon taste is much more present than in any recipe I have tried thus far, but isn’t overwhelming at all. The cinnamon-sugar topping is really pretty and adds that spicy-sweetness that I just really crave! The only surprise (there are always surprises when you experiment, I’m finding) is in the texture, which is more on the sturdy end, rather than the tender end. It’s a muffin — not a cupcake.
This isn’t the end of this experiment. To get a real Mexican flavor combination, you’d need to combine chocolate, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper, and it’d need to be a lot more chocolatey than this muffin. But I feel we’re off to a great start with these!
Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 1 dozen muffins
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup light-brown sugar, packed
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease (or line) twelve muffin cups.
To make cinnamon sugar: in a small bowl, stir together ¼ cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, ¼ cup granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon.
In another bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla until blended.
Make a well in center of dry ingredients, then add the milk mixture and stir just to combine.
In each muffin cup, spoon 1-2 tablespoons batter. Cover with 1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar and a few chocolate chips. Then repeat the layer: top each muffin cup with remaining batter, cinnamon sugar, and chocolate chips. Fill each muffin cup only 2/3 to ¾ of the way to the top.
Bake muffins for 15-20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean. Remove muffin tin to wire rack, cool for 5 minutes. Remove from tins to finish cooling.