Sunday, January 25, 2009

It's in there

Have you ever asked yourself why it is socially and culinarily acceptable to include certain vegetables in baked goods, but not others? Carrot cake = divine; green pepper muffins = move on? The talented Jessie over at Cakespy asked herself the same question not too long ago, and the results were instructive. Snap pea cake, delicious! Brussels sprouts cake, heinous! Personally, though I haven't yet ventured into the world of radish-cake-making, I have long been enamored with the vegetable-baked good. I count carrot and zucchini cakes among my very favorite desserts. Even if it usually has mostly to do with the cream cheese frosting, I still like to pretend that the complexity and unique flavor profile of the vegetable is the reason why I reach for these sweets.

So while I was engaged the other day in what appears to be my new pastime -- flipping through food- and cooking-related catalogs for recipes because purveyors have gotten wise and realized that the way to make me look at the exact same wares in issue after issue is to pepper those pages with recipes -- I was pleased to discover a vegetable-baked good that looked delicious: chocolate zucchini muffins from the Penzey's catalog. (Penzey's is fabulous at this new catalog strategy, by the way. Their catalogs are chock full of recipes -- good-looking recipes for sweet and savory dishes alike -- that spur me to consider every page.) I immediately ripped out the recipe and got myself to the store. As I was picking out the zucchini in the produce section Husband asked me what they were for, most likely expecting me to answer with something healthier than "chocolate muffins." For the record, my answer -- to most questions -- is "chocolate muffins."

And what a good use of fresh veggies these muffins are. They give off the most pleasing, rich cocoa aroma and they're so ridiculously moist and studded with chocolate chips, it's like, where did the zucchini even go? Ah, but it's in there...flexing its little vegetable muscle to cut all that chocolate with a slightly pungent (in a good way!) note. In addition to making my taste buds happy, these muffins also made me rather selfish: I thought about bringing some of them to work, but then decided that I didn't really need to share, after all.

I get like that about my vegetable-baked goods. Hands off, people.


Adapted from the Penzeys catalog

1/2 c. milk
1/4 t. white vinegar
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. safflower (or vegetable) oil
1 3/4 c. sugar
2 large eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon (Ceylon, if you have it)
1/2 t. kosher salt
2 c. zucchini, peeled and finely grated (about 3 small zucchini)
1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1/2 c. pecans or walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 standard muffins tins with papers.

In a liquid measuring cup, mix together the milk and vinegar and set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, oil and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and milk/vinegar mixture. Blend well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. (It's important to sift to remove and lumps from the cocoa powder.) Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir by hand, using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, to combine. Add the grated zucchini and 1/2 c. of the chocolate chips and stir well. 

Using a spring-loaded ice-cream scoop, dish the batter evenly into the pans, filling each paper about 2/3 full. Sprinkle the muffins with the rest of the chocolate chips and the pecans/walnuts.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack, then, consume!

Makes 24 muffins.


Anonymous said...

yes! i just stumbled upon your blog this morning - how did i not come across it sooner?! scrolling through the archives, i am hooked. and what's more, you mentioned penzey's in the latest post. i'm originally from Milwaukee, so i have a serious soft spot (as does my wallet) for Penzey's. started a food blog earlier this week - drop over if you get a chance!



Laura said...

While I will confess I have tried chocolate zucchini cake and did not care for it (I did not make it) I am thinking now I need to rethink my position!

Dianne said...

Heather, thank you! I'm glad you like the site -- and I'm even happier that you know and love Penzey's! They really are the best. I will stop by your new blog and have a good look around!

Laura, definitely give these a shot. The chocolate chips and cocoa powder balance the "zucchini-ness" of the zucchini very nicely -- you might enjoy these more than you liked the cake! Thanks for reading...

Arlette said...

Hello again,

your Zucchini chocolate cup cake recipe similar to mine, but never thought to make them cup cakes.
I know they are a hit at the farmer's market.
thanks for the idea

can i ask you about the paper cup cakes you are using??? are they a special order??