Chocolate Zucchini Muffins : Nuts, Cranberries and Raisins too! : My First Muffins

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Hello world… I feel like I’v been in blogging detox for weeks… and it didn’t do anything to deter my wanting to get back into it. I thought by now I would have given up, found something else to spend time doing, but that hasn’t happened and I’m glad.  The reason I’ve been away from my blog for a while is so I can spend time with my mom and aunt who happen to be visiting, a perfectly reasonable excuse to stop taking photos and cooking like a deranged person. I couldn’t imagine my mom’s reaction if she actually witnessed an actual blogging evening with all the photo taking, and prepping and chopping and the writing… am exhausted just by describing it here… and I’m sure my fellow bloggers can relate! it can be madness and TONS of work. But it’s awesome and very rewarding.

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I chose to make something relatively straight forward yet absolutely delicious. My good friend Lauralea stopped by a few weeks ago, and gave me 2 wonderful zucchini of humongous size, am not even joking…  courtesy of her mom’s garden.  I’ve been watching them sit there for too long, enough! Making muffins has been on my list of things to try, and something I had promised my friend (she has a really nice blog and only recently broke 100 posts!) Phuong I would bake as soon as I found the opportunity. I was planning on making savory ones, but those will have to wait. Instead I have made these mini zucchini chocolate muffins, with dry cranberries, raisins and an assortment of nuts.  They were incredibly tasty and rich! To make sure nothing would go wrong I carefully adapted (the best I could!) Thomas Keller’s blueberry muffins recipe from The Bouchon Bakery book.

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This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Marija from the amazing blog: Palachinka. Check out her beautiful work!!!

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Ingredients:

Dry ingredients:
120g cake flour
6g cinnamon powder
3g baking soda
3g baking powder
2g salt

Butter cream:
150g sugar
100g butter
75g eggs (lightly beaten)
50g heavy cream *

Wet Ingredients:
180g zucchini grated skin on
60g raisins
60g cranberries
60g chocolate chips (60% cacao)
2g vanilla extract

Add last:
1/2 lemon juice *

* I didn’t have buttermilk, so I ended up using heavy cream plus some lemon juice.

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Zucchini don’t taste like much do they? specially raw. So why use them. It is a great way to impart texture and moisture into quick breads. When grating zucchini, make sure to leave the skin on. We really want those beautiful crunchy green specks to be part of the batter.  Before you start prepping your ingredients, preheat your oven to 350F, allow a good hour for this. 

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Combine and sift together all the dry ingredients, and by sifting I mean, grabbing a whisk and combining everything in the bowl really really well. Remember to keep the sugar out. The sugar is used to cream the butter, not the flour.

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Unlike most recipes I found online which suggest using vegetable oil, this one calls for butter. Using a hand or stand mixer cream the  butter until it has the consistency of mayonnaise. I had to place the mixer bowl in the oven to soften the butter a bit and then continued mixing it. When the mayo consistency was reached, add the sugar and mix at low speed until it become fluffy, about 1 min.

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Add the beaten eggs (beat the eggs before adding them) the buttermilk or heavy cream and the vanilla. And mix at low speed until well incorporated. About 30 seconds. We don’t want to beat it too long, we’re trying to not incorporate too much air into this mixture. Switch to the paddle attachment now and get ready to mix all the “wet” ingredients.

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I added nuts, dry cranberries raisins to include some crunchy and chewy notes plus extra layers of flavors.  I got this blend of nuts and dry fruit at the store which I processed in the food processor to get the nicer smaller bits. I added some flour to the mix to keep the food processor dry and allow better chopping action.  Combine the dry fruit and nuts with the chocolate chips and microwave the mix for about 60 seconds. The chocolate melts and then stir this mix until it becomes an awesome chocolaty nutty fruity paste. Add this and the grated zucchini.  Mix at low speed for 20 secs.  

It is time to add the dry ingredients. The goal is to incorporate everything well with as little stirring as possible. We don’t want gluten to develop. We want the muffins with a nice soft crumb, not chewy. At low speed or using a spatula, simply fold everything together. You could add the dry ingredients in 2 stages, to help the folding process.

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Anyway, prepare the muffin baking pan(s). Butter and flour well, even if non stick, believe me… . With a spoon or ice cream scoop, place enough batter into each mold to fill about 80% of its volume, which means, don’t fill all the way because they will rise and spill over, and you will get a funny looking top, like you see in some of mine 🙂

I used a ziplock bag as a piping bag, cutting one of the corners tips with a pair of scissors.  Using  a spoon proved a bit challenging and slow. The ice cream scoop might be the way to go though.  This was the least enjoyable part of the process. Seemed messy and I’m trying to come up with a faster better way of doing this. If you have any ideas, please I would love to know!

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Bake for about 30 minutes. I sprayed the interior of the oven with water, sprayed the top of the muffins as well so they wouldn’t bake too quickly and allow the interiors to cook properly (I have a spray bottle I always use)  The interior of a muffin should be slightly moist, not dry. I would suggest sacrificing one muffin in the name of goodness, try it, adjust your cooking time/temperature. You don’t have to, but dusting these dark muffins with confectioner’s sugar just bring the wow factor up a few notches!!!  so why wouldn’t anyone do this. It’s so easy!

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One thing I didn’t do and I would love to try next time is allowing the batter to rest overnight so the flour has enough time to fully hydrate like the book suggests. Which is interesting. I’ve always read about quick rising goods needing to go in the oven almost right away otherwise the carbon dioxide escapes the mixture and the batter doesn’t rise. Perhaps, this is another kitchen unfounded myth?  I see another kitchen science post on the way! I hope you enjoyed this post! I still have family visiting for another 2 weeks. I will be slow but I have a long lists of posts I want to get to at some point. Some really good stuff coming up! stay tuned. And thanks for visiting this other cooking blog.