When you’re married to an optimistic person “stuff” just works out. So when we decided to go to a Washington Nationals baseball game and pre-game dinner on my husband’s birthday, I couldn’t let a small issue like the ballpark’s rules prevent me from celebrating with birthday cake.
Sneaking in contraband didn’t seem like a good idea – and probably wouldn’t have worked. But how to comply with a rule that said, “All food items must be contained in single serving bags within a soft-sided container or cooler that does not exceed 16” x 16” x 8”?
Also, whatever I made had to be easily transportable on metro during rush hour – not easy when you figure in jostling crowds, staircases, and bustling platforms.
My solution was jumbo chocolate muffins. Sturdier than cupcakes, still they would be festive in my bright red cupcake molds – the Nats team color! With a candle in my wallet and muffins carefully packed with a small container of icing for slathering on at the last minute, I headed out for the baseball game/birthday celebration with our friends Gail and Barry (of kugel recipe fame.)
Did I mention that I used a secret ingredient? I had Medjool dates leftover from my recent foray into stuffed dates, and added as small bits in the batter they add complexity to the flavor but aren’t visible or easily distinguishable. (No one guessed what the secret ingredient was as they ate the muffins.) Once I told them, I had to laugh, realizing that I’d also put a secret ingredient in the chocolate pudding that I made for Gail’s father.
For inspiration, I began my recipe development with a SeriousEats Espresso Chocolate Muffin recipe. By the time I was done, I had changed virtually all aspects of the recipe except the proportions of baking powder and soda to flour and the number of eggs, but I still think the original recipe looks good. My jumbo chocolate muffins are definitely chocolately, but not super-rich. I would have liked a more artistic presentation than I could manage with a plastic fork, but orange buttercream worked well for frosting. But they’re also pretty good on their own, as I can testify after polishing off a chunk of one with my morning coffee the next day.
As for the evening, it was spectacular. My husband had a fun time (as we all did) and a great birthday, the muffins were a hit, we had amazing seats just past first base, the Nationals (or the Nats as we call them) won the game and it was a beautiful, cool evening- perfect for baseball, friends and munching muffins during the game and the between inning-entertainment.
Jumbo Chocolate Muffins
Servings – 6 Cost – $4-5
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa (either natural or Dutch Processed)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup white sugar
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
- ⅓ cup canola or other vegetable oil
- 1 cup milk or ¾ cup milk and ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ⅔ cup pitted Medjool dates, diced (about 10 dates)
- ½ teaspoon orange zest (optional)
- Cutting board
- Small knife
- 2 bowls
- Strainer (for sifting dry ingredients over a bowl)
- Measuring spoons
- Measuring cups (for liquid and solids)
- Small plate and grater for optional orange zest
- Large fork
- Large spoon
- Either a mega muffin tin or silicone mega or jumbo-muffin molds on a cookie sheet
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F
- Dice dates. Heat milk or milk/heavy cream to steaming but not boiling (I microwaved it in a Pyrex measuring cup for 1 minute on high) and soak the date pieces in it while you prepare the other ingredients. Zest the orange rind and set it aside.
- In the first bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt together and then mix them with a fork to a uniform color.
- In the second bowl, mix the eggs, white and brown sugars until fully combined. Add the oil, vanilla, orange zest (optional) and milk with the date pieces. Stir the mixture again.
- Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Do not overmix. (Mixing dry and wet ingredients separately, then barely combining them is the template for how to make muffins of all sweet and savory types.) Fill the muffin cups or molds about ¾ full.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool the muffins on a rack.
Although the jumbo chocolate muffins are best the day they are made, they can be frozen, tightly wrapped or stored for a day or two in a tightly covered container. Hint – you won’t be sorry if you eat one the next day with a glass of milk or coffee,