Recipe: Zucchini Cocoa Nib Muffins
Berkshire native Alana Chernila, local politician, mother of two, and author of the new cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), dispenses change and cooking ideas at the Great Barrington Farmers’ Market. She shares her peak-of-the-season recipes with Rural Intelligence to help us make the most of what’s growing in our region.
The last time we saw Alana, at the Farmers’ Market, she was excited about her latest recipe, for zucchini muffins, a great way to use up some of the zucchini overwhelming your vegetable garden or spilling out of the box for your CSA share. Alana is a stickler for muffins, and she has spent a while perfecting this recipe, which abides by her rules for muffins, as laid out below.
1. The muffin must have a top, a BIG TOP. This comes about both by appropriate amounts of leavening agents, as well as having enough batter so that each muffin tin can be filled to the top (as opposed to the often-requested three quarters).
2. The muffin must involve melted butter, not softened butter. How many times have I walked into the kitchen, hungry on a Sunday morning, with the passionate drive to make muffins now, only to be dissuaded by the inclusion of softened butter? Many. (And yes, I know that there are ways to soften butter a little quicker, but when I want to get a batter into the oven in 10 minutes because every moment is filled with hungry girls, I need to move fast!)
3. They must be delicious enough to feel like a treat, but not dessert. Muffins that are cake are good for snacks with afternoon coffee, but I think not so good for breakfast. So I look for less sweetness and maybe, even, a bit of whole grain. I favor spelt flour for muffins, as it’s light and adds really great flavor.
These three criteria have led me to this–the zucchini cocoa nib muffin. I’ve been working on a blueberry muffin, too (right now–the blueberries! Oh the blueberries!), and I’ll share that when it’s ready and my family stops arguing about which ones are best. I love these muffins–they are sweet but not too sweet, substantial but definitely a treat, and they use zucchini, which is a plus right now.
I’m likely to bring together zucchini and chocolate whenever I can, and the cocoa nibs do that in a different way, adding a bit of crunch as a nut would. I know that cocoa nibs are a bit of a hoity toity ingredient, but they’re good here, really good. You can find them in the health food store–they are chocolate in a more raw form. There is maple sugar on the top of these, too, as I’ve decided that I like sweetness more on the outside on the muffin than the inside. Most maple syrup providers make a maple sugar as well (mine comes from my favorite and local Justamere Tree Farm), and it’s great to have on hand for sprinkling over muffins and cookies.
Zucchini Cocoa Nib Muffins
2 cups grated zucchini (from a 1/2 pound zucchini)*
1 tablespoon lemon juice , 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups spelt flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons raw millet (optional; adds a bit more crunch)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup cocoa nibs maple sugar or demerara sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a standard (2 3/4-inch diameter) muffin tin, making sure that you grease the area between the cups as well as the cups themselves. Pour the lemon juice over the grated zucchini and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and millet (if using). In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, vanilla, maple syrup, and buttermilk until the mixture is uniform.
3. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well. Add the zucchini and cocoa nibs, and combine it all with a few swift strokes, taking care not to overwork the batter. Transfer the batter to the muffin tin, filling each cup entirely. Sprinkle each with the maple sugar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the muffins are golden around the edges. Remove from the pan immediately and cool upside down on a rack for at least 30 minutes before eating.
*Is your zucchini bigger than you can handle? Grate the whole thing, take out the 2 cups for this recipe, and freeze the rest (raw, grated) in 2-cup portions. Then you can make zucchini cocoa nib muffins all winter. — Reprinted with permission from Eatingfromthegroundup.com . All text and photos copyright 2008-13 by Alana Chernila.