Great ingredient choice this week. Zucchini is delicious, nutritious, versatile and above all else - abundant right now. And it's familiarity as a summer time staple makes it ripe for trying something new - which is just what I did.
I started my creative zucchini search at www.101cookbooks.com- a food blog I know you love as much as a I do. Heidi, the author, always has healthy, inventive and unusual recipes for typical ingredients. She also does a great job of incorporating ingredients I'm not as familiar with in an easy and unintimidating manner...things like farro, cacao nibs and wheat germ aren't as exotic and difficult to use as I once believed.
That being said, Heidi did not let me down. Creativity was what I was looking for and creativity was what I found in her recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes:
Chocolate and zucchini sound like a strange combination, but I thought of the marriage as zucchini bread with some chocolate thrown in. I love the unique flavor of zucchini bread - it tastes nothing like zucchini but has a very naturally sweet flavor, similar to carrot cake - so I was excited to combine one of my favorite baked goods with chocolate.
I have to say, the result was less than thrilling. The texture and consistency was more like a muffin than a cupcake - chocolate muffins are GREAT, don't get me wrong, if you aren't expecting a chocolate cupcake. In addition, the zucchini was really lost among all the chocolate. This was the biggest bummer for me. I really wanted the zucchini to add something to the cupcake/muffin, but unfortunately, it just made eating the muffin excusable ("Well, there's zucchini in here, so this might count as a nutritious snack"), but not enjoyable.
I will add in a small disclaimer: I am no baker!Unless it came out of a Betty Crocker box, I've probably screwed it up more than once. This recipe got rave reviews on Heidi's blog, so there may be an error in my ways. I will continue to blame it on my oven (although I've had 4 ovens in the past 5 years) and suggest that if a dense, chocolaty muffin is what you're after (and you're a moderately skilled baker) this recipe is just for you!
Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup vegetable oil or coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups zucchini, grated
1 cup chocolate chips
2 cups flour
1 cup cocoa, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease large muffin pans and line with muffin cups.
In a medium bowl mix together the sugar, butter and oil. Beat in eggs, one at a time until well Incorporated. Stir in vanilla, buttermilk, zucchini and chocolate chips.
In a separate bowl mix together all of the dry ingredients. Add the liquid ingredients and mix until well combined. Spoon batter into large muffin pans. Bake in the center of the oven for about 35 minutes. Don't overcook them or you will lose all the moist goodness - you want them to look almost done in the oven - they will continue to cook for a few minutes after you pull them from the oven from the residual heat. Cool on a wire rack.
One last note: As I said, Heidi is great about introducing new ingredients in familiar settings. You'll notice she calls for vegetable oil or coconut oil. I took advantage of the opportunity to try this unfamiliar ingredient. Relatively available, coconut oil comes in a jar, usually in the refrigerated health food section, as a solid. Just a few minutes in the microwave or in a bowl of hot water and the solid melts to a thick, clear liquid that looks much like and can be used just as vegetable oil. I chose a refined coconut oil that's flavorless, but Heidi suggests using an unrefined oil to give the cupcakes a coconut scent. While I may not make these cupcakes again, I will definitely try this trick on regular chocolate cupcakes.
This is usually the time when I would reveal next week's ingredient - but due to your impending vacation - I'll let you have the honors of introducing our new way to stay connected while your gone...