For the month of February, The Prague Basket will be dishing out some lovin’ from our ovens! We will be featuring a variety of baked goods and hope they will make it to your tables and satisfy your taste buds!
Back when I was in graduate school, I made a culinary discovery. Every Tuesday and Thursday, as I exited the subway station on 110th and Broadway, in NYC’s Upper West Side, I would rush over to Samad’s Gourmet Deli to pick up a certain muffin that sat pretty in the wicker basket of the storefront’s window. Its name was Chocolate Cheese. This delightful treat only became a part my life in my early 20’s and for one whole year, I indulged in its extravagantly high calorie rich goodness as part of my morning routine. (I know my thighs are thanking me!) The funny thing is that I only EVER ate this muffin during that one year of intensive graduate school. After I finished my degree, I never saw it elsewhere and strangely enough, never thought about it again.
Until last week.
Out of nowhere, I was suddenly struck with an urgent craving for a chocolate cheese muffin. It’s been over ten years since I last ate one, but when that craving hit, I knew I had to get googling, and find a way to satisfy my peculiar urge. Through my search, I came across many recipes for Chocolate Cheese Cupcakes which caught my interest, but I really desired a muffin. All I wanted to do was come down to breakfast, sit at the table, unwrap this chocolate cheese devil and sip my jumbo cup of morning decaf. It had to be a muffin. So, my search continued. After studying several recipes online and a quick consultation with one of my pals from The Prague Basket, I decided to take a recipe for chocolate muffins and top it off with a spoonful of cheese batter. I figured that would do the trick.
However, making a NY chocolate cheese muffin is a bit of a challenge in Prague. Many of the recipes I found called for cream cheese, which is available here, even the Philadelphia brand, but it just doesn’t taste the same. Instead, I decided to use a local cheese: Quark or Tvaroh as we know it in the Czech Republic. Quark is a soft fresh cheese that can be used as a substitute in recipes that call for cream cheese, ricotta or mascarpone. It’s quite a popular grocery item in this part of the world. A major difference for me, is that quark is a bit tangier, but a tablespoon or more of sugar can easily change that.
So, here is my Prague alternative to the New York City Chocolate Cheese Muffin that got me through grad school. May you enjoy every decadent bite of this chocolatey cheesy baked good! After so many years, it was great to see this ol’ muffin back in my life again.
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened or quark cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/3 cup sugar (If using quark, then 1/2 cup)
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips
Chocolate Muffin batter (Adapted from Food Network’s Nigella Lawson)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons best quality cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup superfine sugar
- 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, plus 1/4 cup
- 1 cup milk
- 1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F/180 Celsius
Add 1/4 of chocolate chips and set aside.
Line a muffin tin with muffin cases. Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, sugar, and 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine all the liquid ingredients. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together. A lumpy batter is the sign of a good batter. Spoon mixture into the prepared muffin cases. Then drop a large spoonful of the cheese mix and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the muffins are dark, risen and springy.