This has been a difficult year for my family. My older brother suffered a traumatic brain injury in March, and things changed for every member of my immediate family in a number of different ways. My brother, of course, has tremendous challenges ahead of him. Already he's fought so hard and has beaten the odds, but there is much more ahead for him, his wife, and his two daughters. Books have been written about such challenges, and I'm not here to dwell on them. He has always been a stubborn person, for better or for worse, and now is the time when that hardheadedness becomes useful.
Origionally I didn't plan on writing about this at all. It hasn't appeared in any of my status updates on facebook, I haven't sent out an email, and have only vaguely mentioned a disruption on my blog. It felt exploitative at first, but as time has passed I see that this event is part of my life too. I'm not exploiting my brother by discussing how his illness has affected my life. I'm not asking for pity or *hugs* (I hate that). So, from time to time there may be a reference here. It has changed the way I live, and it has changed the my family.
So, what does this have to do with food? Plenty, I believe. For starters, I've used cooking to relieve a lot of stress over the past few months. Baking bread, in particular, soothes me. I'm certainly not the first to say this, but kneading can be a highly therapeutic activity. It's rhythmic and gently feeds a lot of senses. Concentration and patience are required, but not so much that one's thoughts can't wander. And, oh, the metaphors...
Over the course of this experience Charlie and I have had a lot of company, mostly my family. All of our visitors have been very kind, and it's a comfort knowing such loving people will step up in times of need. Charlie, too, has been remarkable. We are still in our first year of marriage, and I've asked a lot of him this year. Not once has he failed me, and I know what a lucky woman am to have him. And, I'm drifting...back to my point. We cooked for a lot of people, in March and April especially. Many people were concerned about the amount of work that meant for Charlie and me, but what a wonderful escape it has been! After hospital visits all day it was a good thing to gather for a family dinner and discuss what was happening. A lot was sorted out around the table.
Don't worry, this isn't going to turn into a personal journal about my feelings. :) It's still a food blog, and here's a recipe to prove it. My brother and I made these chocolate chunk muffins for my Dad for Father's Day. Making the muffins with my brother was a strange experience. For a while I didn't think we would ever have that opportunity again. He's made such progress, and I'm so proud of him. Oooh...it's sounding like a feelings journal again, isn't it? I'm turning into a sap. :) Let me just get to the recipe.
Chocolate Chunk Muffins
*perfect for Father's Day
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsly chopped
10 oz semisweet chocolate chunks
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Melt unsweetened chocolate and 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chunks in a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring. Remove bowl from heat and cool slightly.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk vanilla into milk in another bowl.
Beat butter with brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add melted chocolate and beat well. Mix in flour and milk alternately in batches, scraping down side of bowl and beginning and ending with flour. Fold in remaining chunks.
Divide batter among lined muffin cups. Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool muffins in pans on racks 15 minutes, then invert onto racks to cool.
These are a delight. They are muffins rather than cupcakes simply because they are not frosted. Don't expect a breakfast muffin from this recipe! The chocolate chunks contrast texturally with the cake, and all of the ingredients really work together. My Dad loved these, and I did too. :)