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Dried Cherry-Chocolate Muffins

Sweet, tangy cherries flavor these dark chocolate muffins for a regal treat at brunch or coffee time or for dessert. For the best results, have all the ingredients at room temperature. The muffins have an excellent crusty exterior, so you will want to butter the muffin cups rather than use paper liners, which may come away with the crust. For a decorative touch, top each filled muffin cup with either a whole or half hazelnut before baking.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup toasted, skinned and chopped hazelnuts  

Directions:

Have all the ingredients at room temperature.

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Butter 12 standard muffin cups.

Place the chocolate in the top pan of a double boiler set over but not touching barely simmering water in the bottom pan. Heat, stirring often, until the chocolate melts. Remove the pan from over the water and set aside to cool slightly.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

To make the batter by hand, in a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually beat in the brown sugar until dissolved. Stir in the egg, vanilla and chocolate. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk, and mix just until smooth.

To make the batter with an electric mixer, in a large bowl, beat the butter on low speed until creamy. Gradually beat in the brown sugar until dissolved. Beat in the egg, vanilla and chocolate. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk, and beat on low speed just until smooth.

Fold in the cherries and nuts. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them about three-fourths full.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 2 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan. Serve warm. The muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Makes 12 muffins.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Baking, by Cathy Burgett, Elinor Klivans & Lou Seibert Pappas (Oxmoor House, 2003).