Chocolate Chip Walnut Muffins with Steusel Topping

Quickbread / muffins were the challenge for April's Gluten-Free Ratio Rally. (On Twitter, search #gfreerally.)

Every month, the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally, a collaborative group of gluten-free bloggers, puts their on take a classic baked good. The premise resides in the ratio of weight of the main ingredients: flour, liquid, eggs, and fat. Michael Ruhlman published Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking last year. In Ratio, he demonstrates that all basic recipes can be broken down into ratios based on weight. As a scientist, I know from much experimentation, cooking by weight (scaling) is the best way to achieve the best and consistent results. Especially when it comes to gluten-free baking. The densities (=weight/volume) of flours vary drastically from different type of flour to different manufacturer. Following a recipe using volumetric measurements (cups) could potentially lead to a small failure unless using exactly the same flour and maker than the person did writing the recipe. No one likes failures. Failures in the gluten-free world mean having to throw away expensive ingredients. No one wants that.

Ruhlman's ratio for basic quickbread / muffins is 2 : 2 : 1 : 1 / flour : liquid : egg : fat. The difference between a quickbread and a muffin is the shape and size. A quickbread is in form of a loaf, whereas a muffin is a like a cupcake shape. Another difference between the two lies in the cooking temperature; the loaf requires more time consider it has much more mass. Quickbread is called that because it uses chemical leavening to rise, meaning it is risen by an acid-base reaction. In this reaction, the products are carbon dioxide gas (air pockets) and organic salts. There are two basic ways to use chemical leaving: use acidic products (buttermilk, vinegar, citrus juices, etc.) with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate); and baking powder (1:1/sodium bicarbonate base:tartaric acid). The reaction starts immediately upon mixing with water and continues while baking; therefore, the dough must get baked shortly after mixing. Quickbreads require immediate baking or the reaction ends and looses the lift before baking. Baking powder consists of a perfect balance of a protected acid of tartaric acid in form of a salt and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) that react once it hits moisture. Another by-product of this acid-base reaction is salt, thus the salt in the recipe is minimal. Of course, quickbreads can be either savory or sweet. The possibilities are endless.

I made chocolate chip walnut muffins with a streusel topping. All of those chocolate chips are hiding inside like a secret treat. I saw many folks from the rally making fruit based variations. Which lead me down the basic chocolate chip path. Add in some walnuts for more character and nutrition. Just so old school. One of my favorite accoutrements I learned in culinary school was a good streusel topping, the yummy sugary nutty crumblies. Usually used for fruit muffins, but why not use it with chocolate chips? I found that I had to modify the ratio to make it work best by reducing the liquid (it was way too liquid) and reducing the fat (oil was leaching out). Yet, eggs prove to be absolutely critical here; anything less than a 1 ratio, lead to a crumbling mess. My recipe ended closer to a 2 : 1.5 : 1 : 0.8 / flour : liquid : egg : fat ratio.

Streusel topping:
  • 55 grams | 1/2 stick butter
  • 38 grams | 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 30 grams | 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • pinch salt
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 50 grams | 1/2 cup roasted walnuts
  • 40 grams | 1/3 cup blanched almond flour
  • 70 grams | 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 85 grams | 2/3 cup blanched almond flour
  • 80 grams | 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 170 grams | 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 160 grams | 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 20 grams | 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 grams | 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 100 grams | 1 cup roasted walnuts, chopped
  • 237 grams | 1 cup milk
  • 113 grams | 1 stick butter
  • 9 grams | 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100 grams | 2 large eggs, room temperature, slightly beaten
  • 225 grams | 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Scale all ingredients, place into processor, and process just until it is crumbling and broken up. Put aside.

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and walnuts and mix until uniform. Microwave the milk until hot, about 1 minute. Pour into flour mixture and mix well. Microwave the butter until melted, about 4o seconds. Add into flour mixture and mix well. If needed, allow to cool if hot to touch before adding vanilla and eggs. Add in the vanilla, followed by the eggs, mixing well until homogeneous. Lastly, add in the chocolate chips and stir well. Portion out (I use a scooper) into a lined or sprayed muffin tin, filling about 3/4 full. Then crumble some streudel on top and gently push into batter to stick. Bake for about 25 minutes. Makes about 18 regular size muffins.

Thank you Silivana for hosting the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally this month.

For more Gluten Free Ratio Rally quick bread and muffin recipes check out these participants of the rally and (if you are on Twitter) follow the thread #gfreerally:

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure


Caneel said…
Chocolate chip anything and I'm in. I love putting them in my muffins - these look fantastic!!
Karen said…
Thank you for the scientific view, very helpful to keep all of that in mind while we play!
Jenn said…
Ooooh that streusel topping is such a great idea!! Thanks again for lending all your help and expertise this month, I always learn so much from you :)
Tara Barker said…
I agree, the chocolate element was sorely under-represented this month! Hurray for your muffins! And I, too, appreciate everything you do to explain the scientific side of all this fun in the kitchen. :)
Anonymous said…
hmmm... chocolate chips are awesome in muffins! Yours look great!
Lovin' the chocolate chippers in this recipe! Love this strusel topping, too..Thank you for sharing; enjoy your weekend!
brooke said…
I don't think there is anything that a streusel topping and chocolate chips can't make better. My son would agree. :)