Operation: Adopt a Zucchini* is in full swing: welcome to my second post this week about what to do when you have an overabundance of zucchini and no idea as to how to use them up. I know if you’re in a CSA anywhere near here, you probably have a ton of these things. You can grill them, gratin them, make them into ribbons if you wish; all of those ideas are ones I’ve availed myself of in recent weeks. But if your taste buds grow weary from all the savory zucchini-ing, use them for something on the sweeter side: black and white zucchini muffins.
*there is still no Operation: Adopt a Zucchini. It’s entirely fiction. It has, however, been suggested we create a 5K run for the organization in order to raise awareness about the homeless zucchini problem. It has been taken under advisement, and there’s a good chance it will happen next year. Before you ask, there will, in fact, be tee shirts.
Because zucchini gets offended when you only think of it as savory; it adds moisture and texture to muffins, breads, and cakes like you wouldn’t believe. I know some of you are right there with me; I can feel it. You’re in. But some of you have maybe never had zucchini bread, and are a bit leery of using a vegetable in something sweet.
To those people: Your fear is unwarranted. Zucchini sweet things are crazy delicious. Oddly enough, the picky eaters I know will gobble these up (as long as you “forget” to tell them what they are until at least 2 bites into it. You have to be gentle with picky eaters.) Think about it: zucchini are great to throw into dishes or saute on their own, but have almost no discernible flavor of their own. So why would they magically have some strong, aggressive flavor in quick breads? Exactly.
What they do contribute, however, is a luscious heft to a muffin – and I don’t mean “heft” in a heavy way; I mean it in terms of satisfaction. It’s difficult to describe, but the shredded zucchini in these muffins literally dissolves into the muffin itself, leaving behind only a density and delicate sweetness, which is the magic part, as far as I’m concerned. These muffins also get a little help from a small amount of crushed pineapple, but as with the zucchini, the flavor is all background sweetness and nothing too assertive.
Which is why, if you want excitement, you can add a good dose of chocolate to half of this batter. Boom: black and white muffins, all in one mix. No extra work, except for the part where you get out an extra bowl, scoop roughly half your mix into it, and dump the cocoa powder. Done.
See? Yum. You can’t even resist these right now. If you’re still holding out, these are actually good for you. That’s right; no crazy extra calories here, people; you’re eating vegetable and fruit muffins with not one speck of butter in them. Also, cocoa powder is good for your heart. I think.
So it’s the perfect breakfast muffin, if you ask me. Especially for those who love the idea of chocolate for breakfast, but maybe don’t love the idea of actually dealing with the calories and fat from a non-zucchini chocolate muffin. And for a little extra kick…
I made you pineapple curd to dollop over top of these, if you like that sort of thing. Personally, I could eat these with or without the curd, so don’t feel as though you must make both the muffins and the curd to bliss-out your taste buds. You don’t. But it does two things if you make it: For the “white” muffins, it brings out the flavor of the pineapple inside. For the “black” muffins, it gives the chocolate a nice little tart counterpoint. Either one will be delicious, and for different reasons.
Do it for the zucchini; they have nowhere else to go.
Zucchini muffins adapted from a zucchini bread recipe Sister Table’s friend passed along to her. Sister Table loved it and passed it along to me, just as I had begun work on this blog. I let it get past zucchini season before getting it out there. I daresay that with a year of experience under my belt, the recipe is much better than it would have been a year ago. And it was very good a year ago.
The pineapple curd is a riff on a classic lemon curd recipe I continually use from Williams Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking: Tips and Techniques for Successful Home Baking.
Black + White Zucchini Muffins with Pineapple Curd
for the muffins:
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups shredded zucchini (2 zucchini, 3 if they’re on the smaller side)
- 2 8-ounce cans crushed pineapple, drained (juice reserved, if you’d like to use that as part of your pineapple curd juice reduction)
for the pineapple curd:
- 12 ounces pineapple juice (2 small cans),**
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large whole eggs, plus 3 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
*the 1/4 cup cocoa powder is the measurement you want to use if you’re cutting the batter in half and making half of them white and half of them black. If you want to make the entire thing chocolate, double that and use 1/2 cup cocoa powder.
**some can be reserved from crushed pineapple, but you’ll need more-have at least 8 ounces on standby if you’re reserving your juice from the muffin pineapple.
Make your curd:
First, you’ll be reducing your pineapple juice. Place juice in a small saucepan over medium heat, and let boil. Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup. It’s my experience that everyone does this a little differently, so for reference, mine took about 40 minutes. Watch yours, especially after it crosses the 3/4 cup mark (about 30 minutes), carefully; you don’t want to turn it into syrup. Once finished, set aside to cool down to about lukewarm or so.
Once cooled, place your reduced pineapple juice, sugar, eggs, egg yolks, and butter into a double boiler (or other heatproof bowl, like a Pyrex glass one) over a saucepan of just-simmering water. Do not let the bottom of the double boiler/bowl touch the water, please. Whisk steadily, until sugar dissolves and butter melts, and continue to whisk (don’t beat it to death, just keep it at a good stir) until thickened, about 10-12 minutes. Again, this is a guideline; mine took about 10 minutes, but you’re looking for desired consistency here, not “exactly like Shannon’s” consistency. It should coat the back of a spoon and resemble soft-set instant pudding.
Once finished, set aside for about 20 minutes to cool down a bit, then pour into a bowl to store. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of your curd, and poke several holes in the wrap with the tines of a fork to allow steam to escape. Store in refrigerator at least 3 hours, until well-chilled. Use within 5 days. And because it’s more practical, once it’s chilled, you can store it in a glass canning jar: I find it to be much easier than a bowl covered in plastic wrap.
Make your muffins:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk until thoroughly incorporated. Set aside.
In another large bowl, add the eggs, sugar, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk until eggs are beaten, the mix looks creamy, and everything is homogeneous. Add your shredded zucchini and crushed pineapple and stir with a large spoon or spatula until incorporated.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir, using your spoon or spatula, gently until just blended, taking care to scoop from the bottom up to check for any dry flour patches.
Here’s where it turns into a make-a-decision mystery:
- If you are keeping your batter as/is (“white”) and not adding chocolate, proceed to #1.
- If you are making your batter all chocolate (“black”), proceed to #2.
- If you want half your muffins as/is and the other half chocolate, proceed to #3.
- If you don’t like this game, proceed to #4.
Think about it…think about it; did you make the right decision?
- Divide your batter into prepared muffin cups, filling about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-17 minutes, checking at the 14-minute mark, until toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean. You want these on the less-done side, so try not to overbake these. You win!
- Add 1/2 cup (remember? good!) cocoa powder to your entire batter and stir to incorporate, working from the bottom up to check for spots of un-chocolated batter. Divide into prepared muffin cups, filling about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-17 minutes, checking at the 14-minute mark, until toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean. You want these on the less-done side, so try not to overbake these. You win!
- Divide your batter (roughly, just eye it up) in half using another large bowl. Add 1/4 cup cocoa powder to one bowl of batter, and stir to incorporate, working from the bottom up to check for spots of un-chocolated batter. Divide into prepared muffin cups, filling about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-17 minutes, checking at the 14-minute mark, until toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean. You want these on the less-done side, so try not to overbake these. You win! Extra points if you bake them in a checkerboard pattern; so stylish.
- I’m sorry; that’s a bummer to hear. I used to love make-a-decision mystery books, and I was hoping you would too. Hold the phone: you say you’re just aggravated because you wanted to make these into loaves? Why, here you go; loaf directions. Head down to the bottom.
Once your muffins are done, remove from the oven and let sit in the muffin pan for about 20 minutes, or until cool enough to touch. Using a thin knife for help, remove your muffins and place them on a wire rack to cool. Or, dump them over all at once and place them on a wire rack to cool. Either way, it works.
These are moist muffins, so they don’t keep forever at room temperature: store tightly covered for up to 2 days at room temp. I like to freeze them (and they freeze very well) for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.
Bonus: if you’d like to make this recipe into loves, that works very well; it makes two loaves, so you can still do the black/white thing with the batter. Grease and flour two standard size (9 x 9 x 5 inch) loaf pans, tapping out any excess flour. Pour into pans and bake, still at 350˚F, for 45-50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Check these at about the 40-minute mark to see how much longer they have. Storing: same directions as for the muffins.