The Tale of the Muffins

Yesterday, it was David's birthday and before I go on, I'll take it brief pause to allow you to sing misc. birthday songs in the comment box, should you be so inclined…

That was lovely. Well, except for the one that was as off-key as my own rendition. Still, it's about the enthusiasm with which it's delivered, not necessarily the beauty of the song, right? Or so I tell my family when they wince greenly at my... erm... "singing".

Naturally, for a birthday, there ought to be cake, right? There was an added wrinkle, though, as due to my allergies to nuts, said cake need to be nut-free - should the birthday boy wish to kiss me, what he eats needs to be nut-free, as well. We're still starry-eyed enough that he chooses kissing me over cake - get back to us in 10 years and the choice might be different. Anyway! Finding a nut-free cake is a bit of a challenge - there are places in Toronto that specialize in nut-free baked goods, but none of them are in my neighbourhood. Not a problem, right? I hear tell it's why most homes have an oven...

So in my quest to be a good girlfriend, I poke around on the Internet to find a recipe for a vegan chocolate cake, because I am also lactose intolerant and allergic to eggs and although both of those ingredients are less important when engaging in demonstrations of affection, I wouldn't mind having a taste of the cake, too. Found a recipe with loads of positive comments, raving about how it was the best chocolate cake they'd ever had, vegan or no vegan, so this seems like a good idea. I enrolled my mother to help me with the physical labour part and we do an ingredient check on the phone, discovering she has most of what's required and I pop out to pick up the two things that aren't in her cupboards.

Wednesday shortly after noon, I show up at my mother's place and we get going. We measure out the dry ingredients, adding more cocoa as recommended by several of the people commenting on the recipe (1/2 cup), sifting them into a bowl. Next ingredient on the list: vegetable oil. Mor opens the bottle and I inquire whether she has grabbed the wrong bottle, because that’s sunflower oil. Turns out that she'd been so convinced it was vegetable oil she hadn't even checked. We look at each other, have a brief discussion about what to do next, both being complete novices to vegan cooking. I consider going back to the store for vegetable oil, but my shoulder is screaming, so we agree to substitute. Sunflower seeds are yummy, right? Therefore sunflower oil might add a nice, slightly nutty flavor to the muffins (we’re making muffins, instead of cake - more portable and easier to share).

Can you hear the music of doom?

Bravely, we soldier on, replacing the vinegar with lemon juice (1 1/2 tablespoons as recommended by another person in the comments), whisk the crap out of the mixture, pour it into muffin trays and place the two trays in the oven with the light on so we can see what's going on. Much to my surprise, watching muffins bake is fascinating. They gradually rise into a slight alpine shape and exactly at the 20-minute mark, an intense aroma of chocolate emanates from the oven, wafting through the entire apartment making both of us drool in anticipation. We take them out after 25 minutes and these are the most beautiful muffins I have ever seen - perfect, dark, sinful-looking, these are the pinnacle of muffinness:

We let them cool a little, not at all standing in front of the rack urging them to hurry up. Mor carefully lifts one muffin out, puts it on a plate and with great ceremony, takes it to the dining room table where I insert a fork to cut the muffin in half. The top of the muffin is a perfect thin crust giving just the right amount of resistance to the fork, then breaking and my fork slides into the soft, moist, yielding inside in a way that leaves no doubt that these are the best muffins I have ever sunk a fork into (and somehow I think that sentence just raised my blog rating to NC-17). I take a small piece between thumb and forefinger, mor does the same and we pop the pieces into our mouths. Chew briefly, then look at each other in horror.

This muffin is the worst piece of baked goods either of us have ever had.

These muffins are not just bad, they are well past bad and right into the territory of vile. In case you're not quite sure what I mean by that, let me without exaggeration to say that these muffins are terrible at such sublime a level the taste became an entity of its own. They are the Taj Mahal of awful. Apparently, you can't substitute sunflower oil for vegetable oil without completely ruining the taste. I'm sure had we followed the recipe, they'd been awesome - underneath the Awful - yes, it deserves capitalization - is a clean, chocolate richness, but it's hard to find when it takes you 45 minutes of ingesting other foodstuffs to get rid of the vague, yet pervasive, sunflower-related yech coating every milimetre of your mouth.

Therefore, when David arrived at my doorstep yesterday morning for the planned all-day birthday festivities, I stuck a candle in one of the muffins, sang him the Danish birthday song, asked him to make a wish and blow out the candle and then… told him for the love of god not to eat the muffins.

He ignored me and tasted it (as did I). It improved - there was that nice nutty flavour among the chocolate. The aftertaste, however, was still... interesting. Still, he took them home. I'm assuming he'll use them as projectiles for annoying neighbours.

And before I go... this one's all Laurie's fault. Something silly in the depth of winter: Ask me anything.