Chocolate Salted Caramel Muffins

These muffins are bursting with the ultimate flavor combination – sweet caramel and chocolate paired with sea salt. Their beautifully cracked tops house melted, gooey caramel insides. Once in a while, the tops form a crater that opens up on the warm caramel. If you skip the caramel, these muffins will still be delicious. Sea salt is also optional, but I would indulge.

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Chocolate Salted Caramel Muffins (makes 16)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk (preferably 2% or whole)
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
16 soft caramel chew candies or 1/2 cup dulce de leche
Sea salt flakes

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together milk, oil, and eggs.
4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined (don’t overmix or muffins will be very dense).
5. Add chocolate chips and mix one time around.
6. Distribute batter evenly to muffin cups.
7. Press one caramel into the center of each cup (or drop a heaping teaspoon of dulce de leche into each center).
8. Lightly sprinkle each cup with sea salt.
9. Bake for 20 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted in a muffin (avoiding the caramel) comes out clean.
10. Optional: lightly sprinkle again with sea salt.
9. Let cool for 5 minutes in tins.

*If not eating immediately, reheat muffins in microwave for 15 seconds to melt caramel just before eating.

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