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Healthy Orange Hazelnut White Chocolate Muffins

What we’re doing here is illegal on SO many levels. Not only do these muffins break some important laws of baking, it’s generally accepted that anything this delicious (and healthy) must be illegal in some way…

These muffins start out innocent enough with a simple base of whole wheat flour infused with orange and hazelnut, but they soon take a few wild turns. Instead of adding lots of sugar, they’re sweetened mostly with pureed dates. And (stay with me) the only fat we’re using is from cacao butter – you know, the part of the cocoa bean that is used to make white chocolate.

Orange Muffins

Cacao butter might be one of my all-time favorite ingredients both for its taste and versatility. I mean, the fact that it has the flavors, aromas, and mouthfeel of chocolate is good enough. But it is also an incredibly interesting fat that is solid at room temperature, making it ideal for many vegan baking applications.

So these incredible muffins don’t have any white chocolate, per se, but they taste like white chocolate because of the cacao butter, which we’re using in a very particular way… If you simply melted this stuff down and added it into the batter, it would cause problems. The butter is rock hard at room temperature and the muffins would turn out very hard and rubbery once they cooled. But what we’re doing is chopping it into tiny chunks that melt in the oven just as the batter is rising, thus bathing these orange hazelnut muffins with the melt-in-your mouth flavors of white chocolate from the inside out. And lest you think these are really unhealthy, the total fat content is lower than if we used typical oil, while the sugar is kept to a minimum by using dates. Win-win-win.

The thing is, cacao butter can be notoriously difficult to source. Even though I live in a pretty large city with plenty of healthy options, this is one ingredient I’ve rarely been able to find locally. Thankfully, my friends at Vitacost.com sent me an entire block of the Navitas brand Raw Cacao Power and I’m overjoyed:

Cacao Butter

Vitacost also sponsored this recipe and sent along the vanilla, flaxseed, and hazelnuts used here. I like shopping at Vitacost because they’re like your local supermarket, except they have everything you can never find, cheaper prices, and free shipping on orders over $49. For cooks who use some unusual ingredients (Andrew raises his hand), Vitacost.com is a great place to find these things.

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

Orange Muffins Wide

Preheat your oven to 350ΒΊ F

Step One

As is the standard with my baked goods, we’ll need a “flax egg” which can be prepared by mixing 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 2.5 tablespoons of water and letting it sit for 5 minutes to thicken into the perfect egg substitute.

Step Two

One of the ways we’re keeping the sugar content down in this recipe is by using dates as a sweetener. By blending the almond milk and dates until combined, we have plenty of sweetness from a whole food that is packed with nutrients. So, combine 1 1/2 cups of almond milk with about 5 pitted medjool dates in a blender and whiz until no date chunks remain. Then, pour this into a bowl and add the rest of the wet ingredients (vanilla, flax egg, a little coconut or brown sugar, 2 tbsp orange juice, and 2 tbsp orange zest).

Step Three

In another bowl, combine the three dry ingredients – whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda – and mix. Then, pour in the wet ingredients and gently whisk together just until the batter is combined (do NOT over mix – a few small clumps are fine).

Step Four

Now for our awesome add-ins. As mentioned, the cacao butter is the rockstar of this recipe. Take a knife to about 1/4 cup of the solid butter and chop it until you have small slivers and chunks (none larger than peas), then throw these solid pieces into the batter. It’s really important to make sure no large pieces of this butter remain. Why? Because it will melt as the batter sets in the oven, leaving large pockmarks where the chunks used to be. By adding just small slivers, however, they melt evenly, adding to the fluffiness and coating the muffins with this beautiful white chocolate flavor.

For the hazelnuts, you can throw them in whole, but I think they work much better when chopped in half. I did this by gently tapping them inside my mortar and pestle, but you could also use a knife to loosely chop them. Add the nuts and gently fold them into the batter as well.

Step Five

Spoon the batter into muffin papers and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or just until a toothpick comes out clean. After you remove them, you will notice that a little of the cacao butter did melt down into the bottom of the papers (this is fine). And since this butter will return to a solid, it’s best to remove the papers while still slightly warm or they will have a tendency to stick.

These are best served warm. As mentioned, the cacao butter will return to a semi-solid state once it cools, thus giving the muffins a more firm (but still melt-in-your mouth) consistency. I think they’re great this way, but if you want them to be super soft once again, simply reheat in the microwave or a warm oven and they’ll get all melty and delicious.

Orange Muffins Cooling

Orange Muffins Side

20 Comments

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  1. I feel really hungry now!!!
    They look absolutely amazing!!!
    I was hoping that I could use spelt flour as a substitute for the whole wheat flour?

    • Thanks Emma! Interesting, I had never heard of anyone using cacao butter in baking before now. I like how she blended it with the macadamia butter – that banana break looks great!

  2. These look beautiful Andrew!! I am SO with you too, I love cocoa butter and but it in bulk because I use it so much in my recipes. I’ve used it in my ice cream recipes, white chocolate truffles, brownies, you name it. It is just amazing stuff and I can only imagine how delicious these beauties are!! πŸ™‚

  3. Yum, I love the orangeyness & the dates & am looking forward to using cacao butter this way! I’ve seen butter & then coconut oil do beautiful things in scones with this method! I sometimes like hazelnuts & other times they taste rancid to me. Could that be because they’re one of the nuts that needs to be refrigerated? Do you recommend raw, roasted or toasted hazelnuts for this recipe? & if I dare to replace them, is there another nut you would recommend?

    • Thanks, Abbi! πŸ™‚ I think they do need to be refrigerated, actually. That could be the problem. I would recommend roasted hazelnuts over raw, they have a lot more flavor. And if you do need to replace them, walnuts would be excellent as well!

  4. I’ve just discovered your site & look forward to trying out most of it. These look great & here in Oz i can get cacao butter so will be trying these soon. I just wanted to mention another way to make flax eggs, which for some other recipes might work better, its more work but worth it. If you boil/simmer 1 cup whole flax in 5 cups water for 10-15 mins then strain off the seeds, you are left with a thick gooey gel that looks like egg white & you can freeze in portions & then pull out when needed for cakes etc but making your own pasta its perfect cos you dont have the ground meal part in it. its super good at making cakes rise as well. A few tablespoons is roughly one eggs equivalent πŸ™‚

    • Oh, thanks so much for that idea, Debi! I’ve never heard of doing that but I’m totally trying it soon! I could definitely see how it could have advantages over regular flax in some cases.

      • Ha, glad you like the sound of it πŸ™‚ ive just been out & bought oats, peanut butter & cacao powder (somehow i was out of all of it) & guess what breakfast is gonna be for me tomorrow (& possibly every other day from now onwards!) Thanks πŸ™‚

  5. So far I’ve tried the Matcha Green Tea Muffins and the Matcha Chia Pudding and they were delicious.
    Last week I’ve decided to try the Healthy Orange Hazelnut White Chocolate Muffins.

    At my first bite I expected the taste to be filled with Hazelnut, orange and white chocolate, but surprisingly, I couldn’t taste anything. No flavor at all, almost like air. I followed the recipe to the letter except for one ingredient; I used Cow milk instead of Almond milk because I couldn’t find any.
    Is it the reason why it tasted nothing at all? I would like to be able to do this recipe because it looks so delicious and nutritious, like everything else you cook.

    Thank you for your time

    • Sorry about that, Jojo. I couldn’t imagine why the flavors didn’t fully come through for you. Orange zest is usually SUPER flavorful and there’s lots of other great flavors here, so I’m really not sure πŸ™

  6. these are amazing! first time using cacao butter. Can these be stored on the counter or should they be refrigerated? Usually I would freeze them but I plan I eating them in the next couple days.

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