To Keep "In Shape" – Double Chocolate Muffins with Flaked Sea Salt & Dried Flowers

Double Chocolate Muffins with Flaked Sea Salt & Dried Flowers | My Blue&White Kitchen

Quite often I get asked how I keep "in shape" while I cook, bake, and eat so much. Moderation is of course one thing which I've also talked about here on the blog. It's something I actually don't have to do very consciously as it comes quite naturally to me. The other thing I usually mention is that I hardly ever eat any processed food and don't buy sweets and baked stuff (except croissants and ice cream). I make them at home. Craving pizza? I make it from scratch. Chocolate? Homemade chocolate cake it is. Partly this has to do with the fact that I just freakin' love standing in the kitchen. At least most of the time. Furthermore, we haven't a takeout culture here in Finland and, hence, there aren't that many places that offer great takeout food. And what about processed food? Well, it's primarily a question of personal preference. It doesn't taste good. Not to me at least. And because I live to eat rather than eat to live and because I basically belong to that range of people who rather skip a meal than eat something that's crap (not entirely sure how good a thing that is), I very rarely buy or eat any convenience food.

So yes, I eat butter, sugar, and meat. And yes, I love a good loaf of bread. I'm not following a special diet. I don't have a list of forbidden food. I eat. A lot. Occasionally, such as last week, I go and get a burger. But still, I'm eating (to my standards) pretty healthy and consciously and, thus, manage to stay "in shape". I know that eating this way doesn't come naturally to all of us. Many of us struggle. I struggle sometimes too.

So how to find balance? I'm afraid I don't have an answer to this question. I only have a couple of thoughts. Listen to your body. Listen to your mind. What do they, and ultimately you, crave? What makes them, and ultimately you, feel good? Be interested in what you put in your mouth. Think seasonally. Think locally. Discover. How does a fresh tomato that has grown in soil taste like? How does a simple soup made from scratch differ from a canned one? Trial and error. Get connected. Share. Gather in the kitchen and around the table. Create memories around food. Get back to the roots. Think simpler.

So what has this all to do with chocolate muffins? Well, they too were created because I 1) craved chocolate (the ultimate way to beat winter blues) and 2) knew that a chocolate bar or a bought chocolate muffin wouldn't do. Originally, I didn't plan to sprinkle dried flowers on top. But as I pulled the muffins out of the oven and saw the sun shining through the windows, I felt like dried flower petals would be perfect. A layer of white snow is still covering the fields and hills, but spring lingers in the air. There's light. There's hope.

Double Chocolate Muffins with Flaked Sea Salt & Dried Flowers | My Blue&White Kitchen

Double Chocolate Muffins with Flaked Sea Salt & Dried Flowers

makes 16–18 medium-sized muffins

This recipe can easily be halved. You can use whatever dried flowers you have on hand. I used a mix of hibiscus, elderflower, cornflower, lavender, orange blossom, thyme flower, viola, erica, and yarrow. The recipe calls for buttermilk. Should buttermilk not be easy to come by where you live, you can make your own: stir 1 tbsp lemon juice into 1 cup milk and let the mixture sit in room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes. The milk should now have thickened slightly and have small curdled bits in it. If you live in Scandinavia, you can use filmjölk.

2 tbsp cocoa powder
250 g (4 ½ dl; 2 cups minus 1 ½ tbsp) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp fine sea salt
2 eggs
175 g (2 dl; ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp) granulated sugar
½ dl (1 cup) buttermilk
180 g bittersweet chocolate (70 % cocoa), melted & cooled 
90 g bittersweet chocolate (70 % cocoa), roughly chopped
115 g (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted & cooled to room temperature

flaked sea salt, to sprinkle on top
optional: dried flowers, to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 175°C (350°C).

In a medium bowl, combine cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.  Line the inside of 16 to 18 muffin cups with muffin liners.

In a stand mixer at high speed, beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Turn the speed to low, and gradually add buttermilk, melted butter, and melted chocolate. At this point, the batter may look curdled. Don't worry, it's normal. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Divide batter among muffin liners, filling each ¾ full. Top with coarsely chopped chocolate. Bake for 15–18 minutes or until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean.

Sprinkle with flaked sea salt and dried flowers of your choice.

Double Chocolate Muffins with Flaked Sea Salt & Dried Flowers | My Blue&White Kitchen

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Now, Now, Now – Lavender Cookies

my blue&white kitchen

for how many years have you gone through the house
shutting the windows,
while the rain was still five miles away

and veering, o plum-colored clouds, to the north
away from you

and you did not even know enough
to be sorry,

you were glad
those silver sheets, with the occasional golden staple,

were sweeping on, elsewhere,
violent and electric and uncontrollable--

and will you find yourself finally wanting to forget
all enclosures, including

the enclosure of yourself, o lonely leaf, and will you
dash finally, frantically,

to the windows and haul them open and lean out
to the dark, silvered sky, to everything

that is beyond capture, shouting
i'm here, i'm here! now, now, now, now, now.

– Mary Oliver, "From The Book of Time"  in The Leaf and The Cloud: A Poem

Lavender Cookies | my blue&white kitchen

Lavender Cookies

adapted from A Piece of Cake by Leila Lindholm, p. 26
makes about 20 cookies

The original recipe calls for hartshorn salt, a leavening agent that has formerly been made from ground-up antlers of a hart, a male deer. A long time ago, it was widely used as a medicine to treat diarrhea, fevers, insect bites, and such. But it is more than just a medicine. In the 17th and 18th century, it was the forerunner of baking powder, used especially in German and Scandinavian baking, mostly in cookie recipes. Today, it's rarely used and, unlike it the early days, chemically produced. I've made this recipe numerous times using hartshorn salt which can still be purchased at the pharmacy. It lends a special crispness and lightness to cookies without leaving any unpleasant alkaline off-flavor. However, it doesn't have a long shelf life and it may be hard or even impossible to come by where you live, so I've substituted it with baking powder here. It can, however, be substituted with half the amount of hartshorn salt. In other words, 1 teaspoon of baking powder equals ½ teaspoon of hartshorn salt.

The flavor of these cookies will develop over time. Right after baking, the lavender aroma is rather aggressive, almost overwhelming. On the next day you will, however, have wonderfully fragrant cookies which are perfect served with a cup of coffee. They are like luscious pralines; you eat one at a time enjoying every bite.

100 g soft unsalted butter
90 g (3.2 oz; 1 dl; ⅓ cup + 1 ½ tbsp) granulated sugar
½ tsp vanilla paste [or ½ vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped out]
140 g (4.9 oz; 2 ½ dl; 1 cup) all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder [or ¼ tsp hartshorn salt]
pinch of salt
1 tbsp dried (or fresh) lavender buds

powdered sugar, for rolling

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and lavender. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and pale in color. Add the vanilla bean paste. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

With the help of a small ice cream scoop or a spoon, scoop out the dough, about 1 tablespoon at a time, and, using your hands, form little balls. Place them on the baking sheet about 2,5 cm / 1 " apart.

Bake on the middle rack for about 15–20 minutes until lightly golden and not falling apart when touched. Let them cool for about 5 minutes. Roll them in powdered sugar while still warm.

Store in an airtight container.