Dark chocolate: drop the “guilty,” keep the pleasure

Aren’t you glad that dark chocolate has evolved into one of those foods that’s supposed to be good for you?

I sure am. I loveloveLOVE chocolate. Not all chocolate, mind you. Milk chocolate? Ho-hum. White chocolate? To me, that’s an oxymoronic concept; I don’t go there. But semisweet? Now you’re talking. And bittersweet? So long as it balances nicely between the bitter and the sweet, I’m good with it.

For the past 5 years or so, dark chocolate (which includes semisweet) has been touted as an antioxidant that lays waste to free radicals. If you’re a child of the ’60s, you may be thinking Weather Underground here. But free radicals are actually nasty molecules implicated in heart disease. And antioxidants help do away with them.

’Fess up—bet you’ve heard those nutritional terms bandied about forever but you never quite knew what they meant, right? Now you do. Antioxidants good. Free radicals bad. Dark chocolate good. Milk chocolate and white chocolate… neutral. Dark chocolate consumed with milk… unfortunately, neutral, as milk interferes with absorption of antioxidants. Which simply means you should down that slab of fudge cake with a cup of black coffee rather than a glass of milk.

Thus I feel good—noble, almost—whenever I break out the bag of chocolate chips. Oh, I know—chocolate chips aren’t Nature’s Perfect Health Food. But considering there’s probably only about 1/3 ounce of chocolate in a typical chocolate chip cookie, I’m betting the balance of fat/sugar to those heroic antioxidants is pretty darned good.

And when you combine dark chocolate with whole wheat—as I’ve done in these Golden Chocolate Chip Muffins—I’m feeling even more confident that I’m actually baking something healthy. Maybe chocolate—dark chocolate, that is—isn’t such a “guilty” pleasure after all!

We get a lot of questions about our King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour. What is it? Is it white flour, or whole wheat? So here it is, the visual difference between King Arthur traditional whole wheat flour, milled from red wheat (on the left); and King Arthur white whole wheat flour, milled from white wheat (on the right). Both are 100% whole wheat flours: nothing is added, nothing taken away. The white wheat is just a lighter-colored, milder-tasting wheat. If you love the flavor of whole wheat flour, choose red wheat (our traditional ww flour). If you’re looking to add whole wheat to your baking in a rather unobtrusive way, choose our white wheat flour.

First, combine the butter, sugar, baking powder, salt, and vanilla, beating until smooth.

Add the eggs…

…and beat again. The mixture will seem a bit grainy. Stir in the milk.

Gently beat in the flour, then the chocolate chips.

Line a muffin tin with papers, and grease the papers. Dollop the batter into the papers, filling them quite full. A muffin scoop works well here.

Notice this is a thick batter, one that holds its shape well.

Sprinkle some coarse white sugar atop each muffin, if you like.

Bake till they’re set and a very light golden brown.

Remove from the oven, and carefully tilt in their cups. This allows the heat to escape, preventing the muffins from becoming soggy.

Now that’s MY idea of a whole wheat muffin!

Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Golden Chocolate Chip Muffins.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Supermarket bakery chocolate chip muffins, $1.00 each.

Ingredients statement: Enriched Bleached Flour, Sugar, Water, Eggs, Water, Soybean Oil, Chocolate Chips, Modified Corn Starch. Contains 2% or Less of Each of the Following: Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening (Soybean and/or Cottonseed and/or Canola Oil, Propylene Glycol, Monoesters, Mono – and Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, BHT and Citric Acid Added as Preservatives), Emulsifier (Propylene Glycol Monoesters, Monoglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl, Lactylate), Salt, Nonfat Dry Milk, Sodium Bicarbonate, Acidic Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Artificial Flavoring, Sodium Caseinate, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum.

Bake at home: Whole-grain chocolate chip muffins, 33¢ each (3 1/4 ounces); 10¢/ounce.

Ingredients statement: Butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, baking powder, eggs, milk, whole wheat flour, chocolate chips.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. Alvara

    Why would anyone buy supermarket muffins when they are so easy to make and with all good ingredients? I didn’t realize all that went into the store kind.
    I always bake my own things and never read the labels on the baked goods.
    Keep the recipes coming PJ, your followers will keep making them!

    When I was a kid my Mom used to get a cake or pie at the bakery that had a crust on the bottom and top and was filled with apples. The top crust was flat and had a thin white icing on it. I think of it as a pastry, something like a strudel. I would like to taste that again. Do you know what it is?

    Alvara, how thick was the filling? Was it thick like a pie, or thinner? I seem to remember those – I’m thinking it was simply an iced pie. Was it square, or round? – PJH

  2. Bridget

    Oh, baby!!! These are going straight to my “must make” list! YUM!

    I have really enjoyed using the white whole wheat flour. I just made pita bread (from the Baker’s Companion) last night using part white whole wheat and I’ve also used it in the “white bread 101” recipe. It’s great!

    Bridget, you’re right. White whole wheat is an easy introduction to whole grains, esp. for people who think they don’t like whole wheat flour. – PJH

  3. Alvara

    PJ, I seem to remember that the apple confection was round, with straight sides and only about an inch thick. Does that ring a bell?

    I loved the muffins.

    Well, I have to think about this… but it’s fun pondering, anyway! – PJH

  4. Natalie

    I love these muffins – they turn out great! WWW (white whole wheat) has had great results for me –

    Alvara, I think your apple confections sounds like a traditional Apple Slab Pie, made in a 10×15 baking pan, double crusted, with a thicker confectioners sugar glaze on top.

    Natalie – do you a recipe for apple slab pie? 🙂 PJH

  5. Natalie

    Why yes, yes I do… it was my Grandma’s recipe from the ranch my mom grew up on in Montana. It’s a basic recipe, so I’m sure it could benefit from a bit of professional ‘tweeking’! The measurements are all for her kitchen (wood stove and all) – our modern adaptations are in parenthesis
    Here’s how it’s written:
    Angeline’s Slab Pie
    Peel and slice the big bowl of apples. Two kinds good. (About 6-7lbs apples)
    Mix with 1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar and let set.
    Line the long pan with pie dough (1/2 sheet pan). Butter. (Brush w/ melted butter)

    Drain the apples. Save juice. Apples, generous pinch salt, 3/8 cup tapioca, 2 tsp cinnamon. Juice of a lemon if you have one. (Mom guesses 2-3 Tbsp)
    (You’re supposed to just know at this point to put the apples evenly in the pan and cover with another pie crust, crimping closed, cut vents)
    Moderate oven 1 hour (350)
    (Now you’re supposed to know to take it out when brown and bubbly and let cool)

    Juice to syrup (Cook the reserved apple juice from earlier to a syrup – you need about 1/4 cup juice/syrup) Stir in butter (no measurements ever written – my mom guessed it was about 1 tbsp). Lemon juice if have (1-2 Tbsp?). Cool. 1 1/4 powdered icing sugar (powdered sugar).

    What do you think, PJ? Can you work some KAF magic on this old gem?

    WHOO-EEEE, you betcha, Natalie. Can’t wait to give it a go! Thanks for sharing. Stay tuned… – PJH

  6. JenneinAZ

    Spray the muffin papers?

    I thought if you used papers then you didn’t need to spray too. Is the point of spraying the papers to get the muffin out of the paper easier?

    Thank you.

    Yes, exactly. I hate it when you use muffin papers and then they rip the muffin apart when you peel them off. If you spray the papers, they slip right off and leave the muffins intact. – PJH

  7. Rebecca

    Mmm… These will be a great breakfast for the kids tomorrow on the first day of school! I’ll be supermom for at least one day! : )

    Thanks, PJ!

  8. mary

    Um, I have no idea where in DC I could buy a muffin for $1.00. So those .33 cent muffins are a bigger deal than you think. And they look so delicious too.

    Yeah, cities are expensive, for sure. I was pricing the muffins in a four-pack – like, an Entenmann’s-type product. So yeah, homemade looks even better, doesn’t it? 🙂 – PJH

  9. Ellie

    I hate to be a spoilsport, but just for the sake of clarity – do the butter and milk cancel out the benefits of the chocolate? You say in the blog that milk neutralizes the antioxidant’s qualities.

    Not a spoilsport, Ellie – just a realist, and I thank you for that. It’s murky whether cooking the milk (as the muffins bake) disables its ability to interfere with antioxidants; I was unable to figure that one out in my research. So I decided to be “glass half full” and hope it’s true… If it’s not true, well, they still taste great, and the whole wheat is a plus. And you could substitute soy milk or rice milk easily. – PJH

  10. Annette--Army Wife

    I’ve never greased muffin papers and I have given up on the spray products once I discovered “pan coat” (equal parts veg. oil, Crisco, and flour). How would pan coat work on muffin papers?

    Annette, if ungreased muffin papers work fine for you, then that’s great – no need to try anything else. I’m not sure how “pan coat” would work – should be fine, though sounds a bit messy/difficult to apply to paper… give it a try, let us know. – PJH

  11. Lee

    Have you ever tried sucanat? I’ve been making my chocolate chip muffins with the honey granules version for several years now and I love the extra layer of flavor it adds. Also want to encourage everyone to read the labels on those chocolate chips. Why go to the effort of making those pristine-ingredient muffins when the chips are full of artificial vanilla! Of course KA choc chips would never have that. 🙂 But unfortunately many of the national brands do. I was pleased to see my local supermarket brand used real vanilla and a higher amount of chocolate liquor than the name brand! Makes those muffins an even better deal.

  12. Tom

    Oh my! I threw together a batch of the muffins last night before I went to bed. When they came out of the oven, I thought, “Hmm. Dense and dry.” BUT I had one with breakfast this morning – they’re not light and fluffy, but they’re not dry either. Wonderful! I added a bit of cinnamon – that flavor combined with the chocolate is fantastic. So satisfying! I used semi-sweet chips as that’s what was in the pantry. I’m thinking the next batch I’ll use the 60% cacao chips! Or, how about butterscotch chips? Cinnamon chips? A mixture? Thanks PJ – this recipe is printed out and is in my binder of “go to” recipes!


    Be sure to let us know how the different chips turn out! Glad to hear that you are experimenting with flavors. If you want to contact the bakers about the texture, just drop us a line at bakers@kingarthurflour.com, or click on the live chat button on the website.

    Happy Baking!

    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

  13. D

    What is your thoughts in substituting butter for canola oil? I’m watching my cholesterol and is avoiding high saturated fats.

    Hi D,
    When you substitute oil for butter in a baked goods that call for the creaming method, the liquid fat does not behave the same way as a solid fat, and you don’t get the same light texture. I wouldn’t suggest using just oil for a substitute, but you can experiment with using part butter and part trans-fat free shortening (another solid fat) to come up with a ratio you are happy with.

    Happy Baking!
    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

  14. Robin

    I just made these and they are delicious. I followed the recipe exactly and added cinnamon. They taste like a huge chocolate chip cookie.

    I will definitely make them again-I can’t wait to use the basic recipe and try some of the substitutions. I would like to try adding crushed pineapple-do you think that would work?

    Robin, I think crushed pineapple would make the muffins heavy, dense, and wet. Maybe you could wring it REALLY REALLY dry? Or oven-dry it? – PJH

  15. Shirley Meskenas

    Natalie et al: In regard to the apple slab pie. I found a recipe in one of the cooking magazines. I put it together for a group last week. Everyone really enjoyed it. This particular recipe used purchased crusts, 4 in all and they are rolled on a bed of crushed animal crackers and suger. The addition of the animal crackers and sugar improved the purchased crust. It is the exact same recipe as above.

  16. Tom

    Preliminary results of muffin flavor trial:

    I thought I would like: 1 cup semi-sweet chips + 1/2 cup cinnamon chips + 1/2 cup butterscotch chips. I was wrong. Didn’t like the flavor at all – the butterscotch fought with the chocolate and the cinnamon.

    Next try: 1 cup semi + 1/2 cup 60% + 1/2 cup cinnamon = just not quite right.

    Last try: 1 1/2 cup semi + 1/2 cup 60% + 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon + 1/8 tsp espresso powder = exceptional!!! I really like the chocolate/cinnamon-y richness of the muffins. The espresso adds depth of flavor, and you don’t really taste the coffee.

  17. Kay

    When you say espresso powder do you mean real ground coffee or the instant (Nescafe) powder?
    I have seen that mentioned in several recipes and was wondering.

    Kay, we sell espresso powder, and that’s what we use in the test kitchen, the brand we sell. It’s a very finely ground powder, and dissolves instantly. So if you don’t purchase from us, that’s the description of what you should be looking for. It really enhances the flavor of chocolate, just like vanilla does… – PJH

  18. Great-grandma B

    Re: Alvara’s flat apple pie

    I wonder if Alvara’s apple pie with an iced flat crust could be the apple jacks of my neck of the woods. The top and bottom crust is pate sucree, a flour-butter-egg-sugar paste, rolled out about 1/4″ thick and set in a sheet pan. The apple filling is about an inch and a half thick with enough thickener to discourage any weeping. A thin powdered-sugar/milk glaze is brushed on top of the baked jack. Most of the time, the filling is apple; occassionally it’s crushed pineapple, cherry, or blueberry. Of the other flavors, pineapple is the most frequent alternate. The jack is cut into bars, about 2″ x 3″. The soft crust (not flaky) is strong enough to hold the bar in hand and the filling firm enough to stay put but not rubbery. I buy the apple jacks at a small Italian bakery; his are superb.

    Hi GGB – Sounds like another very close variation of Alvara’s, which seems to be called apple slab. Someone probably thought apple jacks had more of a ring to it! I’m going to give these a try very soon and will let you all know what I come up with- PJH

  19. Lorraine Stevenski

    Here’s a thought about muffins VS cupcakes. I have created lots of muffin & cupcake recipes. What is the difference? I say a muffin is a quick bread a cupcake is a cake. A muffin should not be mixed with an electric mixer since it is a quickbread. The fat is liquid and is easy to mix into the batter and should not be creamed with a mixer. Following this philosophy, I changed all the names of my recipes accordingly! This recipe, in my opinion, should be a cupcake. What do you think PJ?

    Lorraine, there’s a fine line – just as there is between scones and biscuits. To my mind, either may be made with either method (creaming or stirring), with more muffins being made by stirring, more cakes by creaming. The difference is more in the amount of sugar. I believe a muffin shouldn’t be quite as sweet as a cupcake. That said, you can get into that gray area – how sweet is too sweet for a muffin? – and veer into cake-dom. For instance, there’s a recipe on our site called Chocolate Breakfast Muffins that really is just about the best chocolate cupcake you’ll ever make, and I know lots of people who use it as their default chocolate cupcake recipe. It’s a stir-together recipe, which makes it lean towards being a muffin. But it’s nearly as sweet as cake.

    Bottom line, Lorraine, I don’t believe very much in “should” and “shouldn’t” – other than the real no-no’s like combining yeast with boiling water, stuff like that. Baking is both art and science, with a dollop of imagination thrown in, and when you get right down to it, very personal. Do what pleases you and your audience; call it what you will. And then, we can have online discussions like this one! Thanks for opening up a fun subject -PJH

  20. Alvara

    Hi PJ,
    I keep trying to remember that apple cake. I have been thinking it may have been call “Dutch Apple Cake”. I went online and found many recipes with that name but most didn’t have a top crust with icing. I am continuing my search. I know it was round, about 8 or 9 inch. The bakery Mom bought them in is long gone as are most of the people buying them back then.

    I will try whatever you come up with as my family likes all apple desserts that I make, especially my Mom’s apple dumplings.

  21. Aimee Diehl

    Hey there! Love the chocolate muffins. I just ate a phenomenal cookie at the Vermont store–flowerless chocolate with walnuts. Can you please, please tell us how to make them, and is there a substitution for my nut-allergic, chocolate daughter! The cookies are truly divine.

    Hi Aimee,
    Check out the recipe online for the ‘Sin Free Chocolate Chews’. No nuts, but yummy chocolate chips! Pretty close to the ones in the store. Enjoy!
    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

  22. Just a Flipflop Mom

    Mmmmmm heaven.. I wish the screen was scratch and sniff… I just made banana muffins yesterday.. and when I went to KA a month ago I bought the semi-sweet chocolate chunks.. and made cookies with them for hubby…the chocolate just tastes so much better than regular grocery store….
    Unfortunately I brought sugar highed kids ( after visiting the longest candy counter in the world).. and they were so crazy.. I didn’t get to look as long as I wanted…. I will next time!!!

  23. SimplePleasure

    If I want to turn this into a JUMBO CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFIN how long should I bake it? and at what temperature?

    A jumbo version could be baked at 350 degrees still. The time of bake should be changed to perhaps 45 minutes. Do a toothpick test at 30 minutes and then again at 40. The sides should be pulling away from the pan. Bake longer than the 45 if needed. Elisabeth from King Arthur Flour

  24. Kristine

    I love this recipe. Made it many times, and it’s just beyond delicious and chocked full of chips. Perfect with a cup of coffee… and a big glass of milk. And I love your White Whole Wheat Flour. Great blog!

  25. Sharley

    Just made my first batch this AM and since I’m watching my cholesterol substituted Smart Balance 50/50 stick for the butter and 2% milk. They turned out great – I baked at 335 degrees for 30 minutes (rotated pan 1/2 way thru) since my pans are dark. Used a bag of Hershey’s Special Dark chips. My husband loved the muffin and when I told him it was whole grain he was amazed. He agrees with the others that it was a little dry and would have been great with a big glass of milk. This is a keeper!

  26. Mazal

    1. I don’t have any coarse sugar on hand- just regular cane sugar. Can I use the cane sugar to sprinkle on top or it won’t work very well?
    2. Do these freeze well?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The coarse sugar is just for sprinkling on the top; if you don’t have any, you can try blending 1 tablespoon of regular sugar with 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkling that on the top of the muffins to give them some extra shine…or simply skip this step. As for your question about freezing, muffins in general are wonderful baked goods to store in the freezer. You can store them wrapped individually for easy grab-and-go breakfast or snack muffins, or you can store them in a large zip lock bag. They can be thawed in the fridge, at room temperature or popped in the microwave, which is my go-to option in the mornings. Happy muffin making! Kye@KAF

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