Wrapped up in soft long sleeves and knee-high socks, the night air still felt unseasonably harsh. Pumpkins and butternut squash looked like aliens in the produce department, suddenly materializing out of nowhere. Have they always been quite so orange, or so large? A year is a long time to go without seeing a close friend, and any small change (or constant, for that matter) seems magnified to outlandish proportions. Considering that it’s now mid-September, the annual shift in temperatures and available vegetables is right on schedule, but it’s me that is behind the times.
Nightfall comes to earlier, too, and the air is much too dry. Autumn is no doubt a beautiful time of year with many good aspects to look forward to, but I’m just not ready to embrace it yet. There are still cherry tomatoes ripening in the garden, for crying out loud!
But fall waits for no one; an impatient and demanding guest at best. Unwilling to dive into the deep end right away, a gentle dip into the season sounded like a more comfortable approach. One toe at a time, feeling out the waters, trying hard to settle in no matter how swift the current. Passing the squash for now, I moved on to a long-forgotten bag of flour in my pantry that seemed like an easier way to greet autumn. Yes, flour: Mesquite flour, to be precise.
Mesquite flour isn’t seasonal per se, but it has cooler weather written all over it if you ask me. Mesquite reminds me of autumn because it has a warm, toasty flavor, reminiscent of a crackling, smokey wood fire in the fireplace. That rich, earthy scent that fills the air as the smoke rises up through the chimney and is whisked away with the brisk breeze; That’s what I think of every time I open up that bag of flour and inhale deeply. Just like that, I’m feeling warmer and lighter in spirit already.
Turning on the oven never felt more satisfying. After nearly record breaking stretches of silence over the summer, it creaked grumpily back to life before returning to a contented purr. Something simple and comforting was in order, and I knew just the thing. Muffins, inspired by those made by Amanda Chronister (previously of Vegan Core) as part of a swap practically a lifetime ago, sounded like a tender and sweet vehicle for this dark, warm flavor. Continuing to tweak as I went, the muffins became anything but the simple crumb-topped treats I had first envisioned. Coffee took the place of soymilk and cacao nibs made a crunchy companion to the chocolate chips, further enhancing the roasted essence of the mesquite. Ending up with something entirely different from the inspiration, I was happy nonetheless to still have found the original recipe, still as cute and carefully drawn out as ever.
While mesquite may not be an everyday sort of ingredient, it’s worth the pantry space when it can deliver such a unique and satisfying flavor as this.
Chocolate Chip Mesquite Muffins
1 Cup + 2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Mesquite Flour
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Teaspoons Ground Flaxseeds
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips or Chunks
1/4 Cup Cacao Nibs
1/3 Cup Canola Oil
3/4 Cup Brewed Coffee, Chilled
Turbinado Sugar, to Top
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and either lightly grease or line 10 standard muffin tins with cupcake papers. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the both flours, sugar, ground flax, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Toss in the chocolate and cacao nibs, and mix lightly to coat the pieces with flour.
Separately, stir together the oil and coffee before pouring both into the bowl of dry goods. Stir just enough to combine and create a mostly smooth batter. Distribute the batter equally between your prepared muffins tins, and lightly sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar.
Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center pulls out clean. (Make sure that gooey chocolate chips don’t trick you into over-baking the muffins!) Let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before letting them come to room temperature on a wire rack.
Makes 10 Muffins