Friday, September 3, 2010

Double-Chocolate Hurricane Muffins by Cleo Coyle

I actually had another recipe planned for today, but the week's weather changed my culinary game plan.

Tracking Earl's swirl on the Doppler all week made me think of...well, chocolate. Swirls of chocolate. The result? My Double-Chocolate Hurricane Muffins...

Note the chocolate vortex that forms in the center of my babies -- not unlike Earl's deceptively peaceful hurricane eye.


If only hurricanes had gooey chocolate centers, then maybe Willy Wonka could anchor at the Weather Channel. Now that would be interesting.

Well, anyway, the coming sea storm stirred up a mix of weather memories for me. I live in New York City, where storms rarely interrupt our power. That wasn't the case where I grew up. In the cloud-heavy hills of Western Pennsylvania, storms often swept in, simultaneously sweeping aside electrical lines. And you know what? I loved it -- as did most of the kids in my neighborhood. Of course, those were the days before video games and computers. These days kids have a different perspective on the power grid.

Cleo Coyle - armchair
storm chaser and author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries
Yet the world was so exciting when it was unplugged -- televisions went off, streetlights went dark. Houses up and down our suburban block appeared totally black, except for those magical fairy-like glimpses of flickering candles and streaking flashlights.

We had two ovens in our house -- upstairs was electric, downstairs gas. My sister and I would grab flashlights and head down to the gas stove to pop popcorn. Then we'd sit on the front porch and watch the lightning, listen to the thunder (and maybe the battery-powered radio), and just hang together. Neighbors would come out, check on each other...Nothing better.

Storms can be dangerous, of course, even deadly -- and if you or your loved ones have been battered by one, I do realize it's no laughing matter. As I type this now, Earl is not set to do much damage, yet I fully realize if he decides to shift and become stronger, my little Queens' row house could end up next to Dorothy's farm. 

But, c'mon, let's face it, if you're out of harm's way, storms can be pretty entertaining. Ever seen those news reporters bundled in hooded slickers and rubber pants, standing in the middle of horizontal rain, literally holding onto a pole to stand upright, saying things like, "Yes, Diane, it's getting quite windy now!"

Okay, I'll admit one last thing right here and now. I'm a total sucker for those big, epic, weather-driven popcorn flicks: Twister, Perfect Storm, The Day After Tomorrow. you think maybe all those years eating popcorn while watching lightning flash over the Pennsylvania hills left its pavlovian mark? Could be...

Now what about you?

Do you like storms or hate them?
Do you have storm memories to share

As I said, today's recipe was inspired by Earl's swirls. Storms tend to lock us inside and make do with what we have on hand, and I thought it would be fun to see what I could make today, based on what was available in my kitchen:

overripe bananas,
dry roasted peanuts,
Devil's Food cake mix...

The result is below -- one darn tasty chocolate muffin. The banana flavor is subtle, but it's there in the background and combined with the peanuts and melted chocolate chips, this muffin evokes the delightful taste memory of a chocolate-syrup drenched banana split. It's delightful with coffee so it's a great afternoon pick-me-up. It's also a lovely dessert muffin -- serve them warm with fresh raspberries on the side. Trust me. These are delicious!

Cleo Coyle's
Hurricane Muffins

To download a free PDF of this reicpe to print, save, or share, click here.

Makes: about 18 muffins


1 box (18.25 ounces) Devil's Food cake mix (the kind with pudding in the mix)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
2 large eggs, beaten with fork
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (*see my note about substitutions)
2 teaspoons vanilla (gives a nice balance of flavor to the chocolate cake mix starter)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or chopped block chocolate)
1/2 cup dry roasted, unsalted peanuts, chopped (or walnuts or hazelnuts)

Directions: Place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl. (Be sure the melted butter is not too hot. You don't want to cook the eggs.)

Mix by hand until well blended, but do not over mix. If you overwork the batter, you'll produce gluten in the flour and the muffins will be tough instead of tender. You don't have to do the hurricane swirl in the batter. I just thought it went with my theme. :-)

Line muffin cups with paper liners and fill each cup about 2/3rds with batter. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. (Do not over bake. It's actually better to under bake these muffins than over bake them.) Remove from oven and carefully transfer the muffins to a rack to cool. (Try not to let them remain too long in the hot pan or the bottoms may steam and become tough.)

EASY SUBSTITUTIONS - If you don't like peanuts, swap them out for another nut (walnuts or hazelnuts would both work well in this recipe). The bananas are a great way of cutting down on the need for fat. If you aren't a fan of bananas, however, you can substitute 1/2 cup applesauce instead. If you don't care about added fat, then simply substitute another 1/2 cup of melted butter (or vegetable or canola oil). Then you can...

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

Roast Mortem: 
A Coffeehouse Mystery
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To learn more about me and
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  1. Awesome post. I used to live in Florida and I loved the storms that would roll through even though they scared my parents. I think that's one of the joys of childhood... seeing nature as exciting not terrifying.

    Those muffins look yummy too. I might have to try those soon.

  2. Cleo... Great photos. And a perfect post for the weather. It was odd watching Earl travel over the Virgin Islands, knowing that just a couple weeks ago, that was home. Heard from some of our friends, and everything seems intact, with the exception of power... Still having power issues days after Earl moved on.

    Nice imagery with the flickering candles and flashlights of the neighbors. Brought back those memories. You are right, it was fun as a kid.

  3. I do remember riding out storms with flashlights and amazed at the power of it.

    Looks like we're only get to get the wind gust here, but my LI weekend was canceled.

    I love all those weather-related movies.

  4. Your photos always blow me away (yes, that is a weather pun)! And this recipe, like all of yours, looks like a blissful sensual indulgence.

    I love storms, though I'm not crazy about extended power failures. A few years ago hubby and I were gone for the weekend when one hit, leaving 18-year-old daughter and her resident best friend stranded. How did they pass the time? They turned every single item in our home upside down or backwards. Every book, picture, calendar, doo-dad; every spice in my very large spice rack; every item in the cupboards, every medicine and toiletry in the bathroom. Everything. It was impressive.

    Good luck with Earl!

  5. Hurricanes make you think of chocolate muffins...very interesting.

    When I was young my family used to spend time at the Jersey shore in August, so naturally there were hurricanes. One of my earliest memories there is of my mother stuffing towels under the doors to keep rainwater from blowing in.

    I used to love storms--until I became a property-owner. Now I worry about trees falling and the roof blowing off. At least I own an oil lamp if the power goes.

    Bring it on, Earl!

  6. Your recipe sound quick and easy and the muffins look yummy. We are suppose to have cooler temperatures for the Labor Day weekend here in Georgia, but I think the muffins would still be good on a calm day. :)

    Thoughts in Progress

  7. Replies to…

    @Wendy Sparrow – Beautifully put. Adulthood is filled with dread and fear (often for good reason), but we’d do well to take a page from childhood and see life’s storms as exciting, too.

    @A Year on the Grill (Dave) – Welcome back from the Virgin Islands! I remember your post (not long ago) of those great storm photos. For anyone who is planning a trip to St. Thomas, be sure to stop by Dave’s archived blog of his time there. He has restaurant reviews, activity tips, and all kinds of gorgeous pictures. Just click this link: A Kansas Foodie in the Virgin Islands.

    More replies to come…

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  8. I can do without storms or power outages, thanks. Years ago, I was at the shore during a hurricane. My friend and I braved the wind to walk two blocks to a grocery store. The wind kicked up and the rain began on our way back. Wow. We literally had to bend over to make any forward progress. In the morning, a lot of shingles had been torn off roofs, but the worst part was seeing all the beautiful boats submerged and damaged.

    ~ Krista

  9. Replies to...

    @Dru - So sorry to hear about those cancelled weekend plans. I hope you’ll be able to enjoy your Labor Day weekend anyway, and I’m glad to hear you also like those weather movies, too!

    @Laineshots – Thank you for the nice words on the photos: they *still* don’t hold a candle to yours. On your storm story: I have to tell you, if I came home to every single item turned upside down and backward, I’d probably set fire to something (or someone). :)

    @Sheila – Love that early storm memory of your mom battening down the hatches (so to speak) with towels. At this point, I think Earl’s spinning too far East to do much damage to either of us. Let’s just hope George Clooney and his crew have heard the warnings and brought their dang boat in by now!

    @Mason – Oh, yes, these chocolate muffins are very yummy – quick and easy, too. You know, I’m always running into people (usually very busy women) who tell me that when they bake, they only bake from mixes. Although I do like to bake from scratch, I also recognize that people sometimes want speedy recipes and boxed mixes can be a good starter to an easy-to-make treat that tastes so much better than a boxed mix alone. Thanks for dropping by, Mason. It’s always so great to see you in our virtual kitchen. :)

    @Krista - I hear you! Hurricanes are real tricksters. Their power can be devastating, which is why I'm always warily tracking the dang things the second I hear they're barreling our way.

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  10. I love storms! And I could really use a hurricane
    of chocolate today. Great pics, Cleo!

  11. Chocolate! Mmm!! And a hurricane makes the perfect excuse for eating chocolate (even though it's so sunny here in the Charlotte area that it's hard to believe our coast had a hurricane blow through last night!)

    My storm memory is of being at college during Hurricane Hugo and being completely oblivious...wandering around on the deserted campus wondering where everybody was!

    Good luck with the storm, Cleo...

  12. That swirled top is the perfect accent on your muffin. They look delicious! We have a good amount of monsoons here in Phoenix during the summer and I love watching the lightening from a distance!

  13. Storms are much better with chocolate muffins! They are scary, but chocolate is the best drug (and wine!).

  14. Living in Colorado I get to see the storms roll in over the Rocky Mountains. When I was younger and stationed at Lowry AFB, I'd sit under the static display of the B-52 and watch the lightning storms roll in....gorgeous roller coaster looking lightning. I know, I know....dumb move on the sitting under the big metal 'umbrella' watching lightning.....

    LOVE the recipe!!!!

  15. We are far enough from the coast here in Baltimore that all we got was he cloud cover. We could have used a little rain.

    And, I'd think any weather would be a good reason for these muffins. They look so moist and tender.

  16. They look wonderful Cleo, and sound perfect with a cup of coffee! Love the idea of salted peanuts in the midst of all that gooey, banana accented chocolatey goodness :)

    Fortunately (?) we don't have storms in our serene little island but your writing is so evocative, you almost make me wish for one!

    We did have power failures often though, back in the 70s and pretty much the same thing would happen - under the blanket of pitch darkness (not scary for some reason), candles would start to flicker invitingly in windows, people would come out and check on each other or borrow candles, or hang around chatting. We kids would make shadow puppets on the walls by torch or candle light. It WAS fun!! We were almost sad when the lights came back on.....