We are pretty hooked on muffins around here. We eat them at least twice a week. When I’m really on top of my game (or drowning in produce) I have three different kinds in the freezer at any one time. Of course these days, one of those has to be zucchini. At last check, my single zucchini plant had grown to 13’ by 9’ – completely overtaking the sidewalk. To get the visual, click through.
I have actually watched from the window as a mom pushing a stroller and a kindergartener on a scooter (separately) turned around and ran after encountering this monster. (Okay, so they didn’t run, but they did stop in their tracks and turn back rather than simply walking around the plant that’s now encroaching on the street.)
My recipe is adapted from this one here, which claims to be the best-ever. While it is delicious, it doesn’t take full advantage of a muffin’s potential as a nutrient delivery mechanism. Ideally, I serve muffins as a solo act, maybe with a hit of yogurt if I’m feeling energetic. Given that, I want them to have whole grain, a fruit or vegetable, some healthy fat and some protein. To achieve this I’ve added both walnuts and chia seeds to the original recipe. Both are nutritional powerhouses (read more here and here), and adding them creates little extra work. I also added applesauce, because I think the chia seeds absorb some moisture making for a dryer muffin if you don’t compensate for that. Finally, I added ground cloves to punch up the flavor.
Time: 30 minutes hands-on (unless you’re stubborn), 15-18 minutes cooking
Yield: 18-20 muffins
1 ½ c whole wheat flour
1 ½ c white flour (all-purpose, cake or pastry)
1T ground cinnamon (or 2t freshly ground)
¼ t freshly grated nutmeg
¼ t ground cloves
1t baking soda
1t baking powder
½ t salt
1/3 c canola oil
¾ c plain yogurt (you can make your own)
1/3 c buttermilk (or regular milk with a splash of vinegar)
1c sugar (I used organic evaporated cane juice)
2 ½ c finely grated zucchini
3T chia seeds
1 c chopped walnuts
0. Set out the eggs, buttermilk (or substitute) and yogurt and allow to come to room temperature.
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two muffin tins (totaling 18-24 slots).
2. Sift dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. (See my notes on sifters below.)
3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs until foamy. Beat in yogurt, buttermilk, applesauce, sugar and vanilla. Stir in the zucchini, chia seeds and walnuts.
4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet, stirring just until combined. (Don’t overwork it or your muffins will get tough. A small pocket or two of flour is a good sign.)
5. Using a ¼ c or 1/3 c measuring cup, depending on the number and size of muffins you desire, scoop the batter into the muffin tins.
6. Bake for 15 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick (it’s done when it comes out clean) or by gently pressing the top with your finger (it’s done when it springs back). At this point, if they aren’t finished cooking and you notice different levels of doneness between the two muffin tins, swap their positions (rotating top to bottom or side to side, depending on how they fit in your oven). Continue cooking until complete. My batch took 18 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and allow muffins to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the tins and finish cooling on a rack. Except one. Eat that one immediately. This is the muffin at its best. And your just reward as the cook.
Notes on freezing: I leave one or two days’ worth of muffins on the counter and the rest I put straight in the freezer once they have completely cooled. Lay flat or stack the muffins in a freezer bag and place flat in the freezer. To reheat frozen muffins I slice them in half
(vertically) and toast in the toaster oven. They require a longer than usual toast setting to heat the frozen inside, but once done they are great. Serve plain, or topped with butter or yogurt.
Come for the recipe, stay for the confessional…
I’m not going to admit to you how long this really took me to make. Okay, I will. What’s the fun of only hearing about perfect outcomes? You can watch a cooking show on TV for that. It took me 2 hours. There, I said it. What with the monster zucchini that needed to be scooped out and my refusal to buy ground cinnamon during my $200 grocery challenge, I made a lot of extra work for myself through sheer stubbornness. Throw away a perfectly good giant zucchini in favor of its tender cousins? No way. I’ll just scoop it out like a pumpkin. In fact, I read recently that if you leave them on the vine they eventually will turn pumpkin-like. I think the one I used may not have been far off. Still, the muffins were delicious. Don’t let the perfectionistas out there talk you into chucking the ones the size of your arm. They are perfectly fine for muffins. Stir fry is a different story.
I have another confession. The two hours I just admitted to didn’t even include the baking time. That took another hour because I made a double batch and didn’t have enough muffin tins (or oven space) to cook it all at once, which I didn’t realize at the outset.
Here is a brief account of why it took me more than 2 hours to complete what the original recipe estimated would take less than 20 minutes.
Let’s start with step 0. I didn’t have buttermilk, so I had to measure out the milk and add a splash of vinegar. No big deal.
Moving on to the sifting things got a bit dicey. I went through 3 different sifters to get the job done! The whole wheat flour passed way too slowly through the fine mesh sifter. It completely jammed the mesh sifter. I think it’s the wheat germ in the whole wheat flour that isn’t amenable to sifting. Exasperated, I pulled out a mesh colander and that did the trick. Unconventional, but it worked. The white flour was also slow going with the mesh type, and too quick for the porous colander. For that, the trigger type worked best, working in ½ c increments or it jammed. (For the record, Amazon informed me it’s called a “spring action sifter”.)
Then I tried grating the cinnamon. The original recipe even called for freshly ground cinnamon, so how was I to know that would add 20 minutes to the prep time! They didn’t give any indication as to how to grate it, so I thought I could do so with a microplane, the way I planned to grate the nutmeg. Below is a picture of what 2 minutes of sweaty work got me. Boo!
So I grabbed my favorite kitchen tool (the iPad), and did a quick Google search to see if I could grind cinnamon sticks in my mini blender without damaging the blessed thing. (My mom is so in love with my old one – a cast off from an ex-boyfriend who inherited it as a cast off from his mother – that I recently spent an hour on Amazon searching for one comparable to my Korean import for mom’s birthday. I chose this one. I hope she doesn’t read this before opening her package!) Google survey said: yes! Grind those suckers up.
Check out that cinnamon dust cloud!
For the record, 4 sticks yielded about 4 teaspoons after grinding for 1 minute. Amazing. See what my cheapness frugality has taught me? So cool. That’s the unexpected benefit of the $200 grocery challenge.
Note that I hit a snag with sifting again when I tried to put the salt and cinnamon through the mesh sifter. Unbelievable. What will this thing sift? Maybe it’s not a sifter but a strainer. (Amazon agrees.) Ugh. You should stop reading this blog and go find someone who knows what they are doing. A baker I am not.
Still here? Cool.
The “wet” ingredients went smoothly until I got to the zucchini. (The air quotes are mine. I find it annoying when recipe writers gloss over the fact that non-wet ingredients are listed under that header. Call me persnickety, but when was the last time you encountered wet walnuts. Just sayin’.) As I noted at the top, I used somewhat, shall we say, mature zucchini for this recipe. It may have had a few large seeds that needed to be scooped out. (But who doesn’t have a few seedy patches? I’m not one to judge.)
No problem. I cut them lengthwise and then removed the seeds with a spoon. As I cored my zucchini, a thought occurred to me. While I happen to like Sunny Anderson’s show on Food Network, this right here is cooking for real! You don’t see her cooking with sub-par ingredients. Twenty minute prep time, my foot!
At least I have a food processor to make quick work of the grating.
However, when I measured what I had grated and I was short a half cup. Too cheap frugal to take a whack off a perfectly tender zucchini sitting on my dining table (nevermind that I need to find ways to use this stuff up!) I turned to my frozen stash. I slammed the bag on the edge of the counter, eyeballed the chunk that broke off and deemed it close enough to what I needed. Into the bowl it went. Frozen, mind you.
At this point I had run out of time to actually cook the muffins. So I left dry and wet ingredients separate (I know that much, at least) on the counter and left for several hours. As it turned out, this delay allowed the frozen zucchini to thaw so it all worked out in the end.
Until I had to make the muffins and didn’t have enough tins… In between batches I had to re-grease a used tin so I could refill it and bake another round. There was added pressure to do this quickly since my toddler was liberally sampling the batter while it sat waiting to be baked. It’s a good thing I use farm-fresh eggs!
That’s my full confessional. I bet you can’t wait to try this recipe now! I must say, though, leaving aside the reality of how the hotdog was made, so to speak, the end result is well worth it. My double batch yielded 41 (smallish) muffins. These should last us a few months… once I get around to making the other two flavors of muffins. Good thing there’s a holiday coming up. It might take me all day if I have to harvest the carrots with chopsticks and mill the flour in a coffee grinder. Tune in again for those adventures!
Peace, love and zucchini.
And congratulations on making it to the end of this post. You deserve a muffin.