When one makes it known that they like to bake or cook, it’s easy to get gifts for them – just go for an interesting-looking cookbook. I have been gifted all sorts of cookbooks over the last several years, to the point where I have a whole bookshelf dedicated to them:
The above does not include the large number of Sunset and BonAppetit magazines I have elsewhere. At some point, one kind of has too many cookbooks. I know that sounds blasphemous, but it’s kind of true. At one point when we got the Curries, Jewish, and Greek Cooking books, Mikal and I went through them and flagged the recipes that looked most enticing to us, with the intent of eventually making all of these items. I don’t know if we even got through a handful – it’s a lot of food! Lots of recipes! It’s a bit daunting. Imagining making even half of the items contained in that bookshelf…. I could easily have a few years’ worth of recipes on my hands.
You know, at this point that sounds a bit like a fun adventure, especially with the food we get from the CSA (community-sustained agriculture). I’ve actually been doing that a bit this week – we purchased a full share from the CSA for this quarter, and it’s just a ton of food, mostly vegetables. So Tuesday night I made a ratatouille variant (didn’t have eggplant, but had zucchini and yellow squash), and last night I made citrus chicken with herby-cheesish baked zucchini and tomatoes. It was kind of fun to do some random.
Speaking of zucchini – that’s a lot of what we have been getting lately in our share: giant zucchini. I love making zucchini bread. It’s so delicious and I can pretend it’s vaguely healthy. Even before using one giant one for the last two nights’ dinner, I grated down a couple more and came out with 9 cups of zucchini. That’s a lot of zucchini bread. Just saying.
As with banana bread, I have a zucchini bread recipe that works pretty well, and is pretty damn good, but I’m pretty sure it’s not amazing. I have personally gotten a bit tired of eating zucchini bread muffins over the last couple of weeks. This prompted me to start looking through my cookbooks, checking to see if there are any interesting other items out there I could try. I came across Chocolate and Zucchini, a book my grandparents got me a couple of years ago. I’m pretty sure I have tried one or two recipes from it at some point, but I had not been brave enough to attempt the recipe the book and blog were named for – chocolate zucchini cake. The author has a blurb about it and how she started making it, and as had happened when my mother first made zucchini bread, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Even knowing that zucchini bread is awesome, and that you can’t really taste the zucchini, I just couldn’t reconcile the flavors of zucchini and chocolate.
Getting sick of a particular something does help bypass a lot of that feeling, though. So I took the plunge and made cupcakes rather than cake, and they were absolutely amazing. The zucchini traps in moisture, as it does with bread, and gives the cupcakes a richness that belies its decently moderate use of cocoa powder and chocolate. The moisture bit is particularly useful because of what is going on with my baked goods. You see, my office recently got some new furniture, including a beverage station. That in itself was pretty awesome (no more having to run to the kitchen in the back when guests want some coffee), but what made it just that much more awesome was that a tiered pastry dish was included. I don’t know if the powers that be that assembled the set for the office had me in mind at all, or even know that I bake, but I have taken over that pastry dish with a passion. I now bake goodies twice a week to ensure that it is adequately stocked.
Those are the plain zucchini muffins. The moisture that the zucchini helps lock into the bread helps these puppies stay fresh over a few days so that I’m not making a batch every day. No, those biscotti aren’t mine – though eventually I’ll figure out better packaging and they will be.
I don’t have an image for the chocolate zucchini cupcakes, but I will undoubtedly make more. Nine cups of zucchini. Nine.
Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, or 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp instant coffee granules
3 large eggs
2 cups unpeeled grated zucchini
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (or cut-up Dove dark chocolates)
Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a muffin tin or line with paper baking cups.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. With a mixer or food processor, cream the butter and sugars. Add vanilla, coffee granules, and eggs, mixing well between each addition.
Reserve a cup of the flour mixture and add the rest to the egg mixture. Mix until just combined.
Add the chocolate chips to the reserved flour mixture and toss to coat, then do the same with the zucchini. Fold into the batter and blend with a wooden spoon – don’t overmix. Pour into the prepared pan and level the surfaces with a spatula.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the middle cupcakes comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes, then fish the cupcakes out of the pan and let cool to room temperature before serving. At this point you can sprinkle the tops with confectioners’ sugar (very pretty), or glaze with melted chocolate.