Chocolate for breakfast

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Chocolate–for breakfast? Hey, loosen up–it’s the holidays. After all, you used to drink hot chocolate when you were a kid, right? And if you were in Paris right now, you might be standing on the corner outside the local boulangerie, a steaming cup of cafe au lait in one hand and a fresh petit pain au chocolat in the other. Chocolate for breakfast? Go for it.

My personal memories of hot chocolate begin with Franklin’s Drugstore in Glastonbury, Connecticut, the town in which I grew up. I’m sure there were drugs and heating pads and stuff like that somewhere in Franklin’s, but we kids thought of Franklin’s strictly as the local source for candy and comic books and baseball cards. Each Sunday my dad would give us a nickel after church, and we’d agonize over the pink bubble gum cigars, wax lips, and giant SweeTarts. (If we were lucky enough to get a dime, rock candy was the hands-down choice.) I remember vividly Dad plopping the Hartford Courant down on the counter, and each of us three kids adding our nickel treasure on top.

After that it was a stop at the Colonial Bakery (half-moon cookies, golden cupcakes, chocolate eclairs), then home to a big breakfast of cinnamon coffee cake and scrambled eggs, followed by Sunday dinner — a quaint old custom involving a Roast and Vegetables and Company, which many of you probably remember.

So where does the hot chocolate come in? Franklin’s also had a “soda fountain,” a counter with tall revolving stools where you could sit and get a dish of ice cream, a grilled cheese sandwich, a cup of coffee–any of that typical drugstore fare. The counter at Franklin’s was the place where locals met to discuss the weather, town politics, or maybe the upcoming harvest; at that time, Glastonbury still harbored a significant number of tobacco and corn fields, and peach and apple orchards.

My dad, principal of the local junior high and a lifelong avid coffee drinker, liked to drop by Franklin’s for a cup. And sometimes, if I was on hand at just the right moment, I got to go with him. “Where are you going, Daddy?” “Crazy, want to come along?” I knew that meant we were going downtown, with a visit to Franklin’s in the offing.

I remember in particular a December day just before Christmas, dark gray with heavy, wet snowflakes falling that filled the streets and sidewalks with slush. We entered Franklin’s, Dad and I, to a blast of hot, moist air, redolent of wet wool from the faintly steaming coats of those who’d just come in from the snowy afternoon. I was very small; the men at the counter, towering above me on the revolving stools, looked very big. But Dad lifted me up beside him, and suddenly I was big, too; I felt important and old.

Dad ordered a cup of coffee for himself, a hot chocolate for me. Paul, the druggist, delivered identical thick crockery mugs, both steaming, mine sporting a froth of whipped cream on top. I spooned up the whipped cream, then slowly twirled on my chair, waiting for the chocolate to cool, and wishing my sister or brother could be there to see what a big shot I was.

At that moment–harbored against the storm in a warm, bright room, surrounded by a crowd of benign adults, Christmas coming, drinking hot chocolate–I was at a place every child should be more than once in their life: safe, warm, loved, and fed. That singular memory, in all its incarnations–mental, emotional and physical–has stayed with me to this day. Thanks, Dad!

These Chocolate Breakfast Muffins are rich and tender, high-rising (indeed, mushroom-shaped), and deep chocolate, both in color and flavor. Warm from the oven, spread with butter or raspberry jam, they’re a totally decadent way to greet the day. We recommend them anytime you feel like treating yourself to something really special. And, by the way, they don’t need to be relegated to the breakfast table; frosted with fudgy icing, they double as an awesome cupcake.

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First, stir together the dry ingredients, including the chocolate chips.

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Next, stir in the wet ingredients. There’s no need to beat; stirring to combine is fine. At this point a bit of dry ingredients are still showing.

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Just 5 to 10 seconds more with the beater, and everything is combined. STOP. Don’t beat. It’s not necessary, and will only make the muffins tough.

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I’ve lined my muffin pan with silicone muffin cups; paper cups are fine, too. Either way, grease the cups; non-stick vegetable oil spray is your best bet. This prevents the muffins from coming apart in chunks when you peel off the paper or silicone. I also use a muffin scoop to heap the batter into the cups; this creates the signature crown muffin (mushroom) shape.
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I like to sprinkle these chocolate muffins with Swedish pearl sugar, a coarse, bright-white sugar that makes a striking contrast with the dark chocolate.

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The finished product. If you don’t happen to like the crown muffin (mushroom) shape, simply fill the muffin cups not quite to the top, instead of heaping them with batter. You’ll have a bit of extra batter; bake more cupcakes, or a little loaf. As I said, these are as much cupcake as muffin, so feel free to eschew the sugar topping and top with fudge icing instead. Enjoy!

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...