Monday, 16 September 2013

Chocolate and Courgette (Zucchini) muffins


Dedicated to -- my gran; for always being there for me regardless of the trouble, and putting up to my wackiness and sporadic but frequent tempers for all these years without any complaints.

Daring to try

Sometimes I don't mind going out of my comfort zone when cooking - it's a good way to challenge myself and to get, hopefully, some good and new results. If not, it's still a good chance to learn anyway/ I mentioned I was using the book called, Annie Bell's Baking Bible, in my earlier post "Cranberry and White Chocolate Cupcakes". I had to flip through a couple of pages before I reached the recipe I needed for those cupcakes and there was one particular recipe that caught my eye: Courgette and Cinnamon Muffins. I'd made carrot cake before but courgette cakes? That was TOTALLY out of my league (at that point anyway). I kept the recipe in mind though and after a few days, I found myself looking up more courgette-related muffin recipes on the net. I finally settled with the Chocolate-Zucchini Cupcakes recipe written by Jen, an contributor.

Courgette grating - dangerous work

The usual routine

There's no trick or surprise in every new recipe I try - they all start with a common beginning: locating all the ingredients. Seeing as I had a spare courgette sticking out of the fruit basket in my house, I was quite keen on making the muffins. The other things I needed were easy to find to as they were all buried deep in my dump-of-a kitchen cupboard - with all that settled, it was definitely time to start.

The colorful trio
The recipe asks for the following (note that I changed the serving amount to fifteen rather than two dozen because twenty-four muffins are too much for me; although it is tempting... ;) - click on the recipe's name to be redirected to the website where you can get the original recipe): 

The List

  • 35g unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 240g packed brown sugar
  • 150ml vegetable oil (I didn't have any so I used olive oil - seemed to work fine for me anyway)
  • 155g all-purpose flour
  • 3g baking powder
  • 3g baking soda
  • 2g salt
  • 140g grated courgette/ zucchini
  • 55g chopped walnuts
It also asks for 285g chocolate icing/ frosting and 30g walnut halves to decorate the cupcakes but I didn't want it to be too sweet so I didn't add any - plus I had something far better in mind.

Ingredients + utensils = mixing time
Also with the unsweetened chocolate, I used a bar of chocolate called "baking chocolate" from Lidl - the pieces of chocolate are all 10g each (as printed on each piece) and so it makes measuring the amount of chocolate much easier! Definitely worth a buy!

DIY (method)

As usual, you start off with preheating the oven to, in this case, 175°C (350°F).  

Taking a large bowl, you need to beat the eggs and brown sugar until it's thickened and pale. Because of the required condition, I assumed that I'd need an electrical egg beater (which I had, thankfully). It took me less than 10 minutes to achieve the "supposedly" required texture (emphasis on the "supposedly" -- underlying meaning to be revealed at the end).

Sweet and nutty
I then mixed in the oil and chocolate into the egg and brown sugar mixture (hereafter wet mixture). Taking another bowl, I combined the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together (dry mixture). Finally, using a wooden spoon, I slowly combined the wet and dry mixtures together by pouring the dry into the wet mixture. I find that it's best to start mixing just in the middle and then gradually expanding your area of mixing to the sides - your dry mixture will be thoroughly combined with the wet mixture and avoids any lumps from forming (which would otherwise spoil the texture of the cake!). Don't mix it too much - just until it moistens or is blended.

DIY muffin liners :-)

Tip in the grated courgette and give it a good mix before tipping in the chopped walnuts; I found chopping the walnuts a bit difficult so I kinda of crushed them gently just so that they managed to split in half easily using my potato masher.

Finishing touches
Taking my deformed plastic beaker, I poured the mixture into it and used it to pour the mixture into the muffin liners in the muffin tin I'd prepared earlier; I also used a rubber spatula to scrape and scoop out any remaining traces of the mixture (you really don't want to waste anything - it's something my gran always reinforced to me and it's becoming part of my daily ethos). I had proper cupcake liners but I wanted my muffins to be a bit taller so I used some normal baking paper, a pair of scissors and a bottle that was about the same size as my muffin tin to make my own muffin liners; I followed Emma Christensen's tutorial on the website, The Kitchin. The recipe suggested that I fill the muffin liners 2/3 full but there were quite a few times where I was slightly over-ambitious (at least I thought so at that time).

Baking - totally worth the wait
Before putting the muffins into the oven, I topped them with some mini marshmallows I'd gotten from the shops earlier - delightful. The muffins were in for 20 minutes and they came out a nice, shiny brown color. The look of them made me worry that they weren't full baked but, after inserting a toothpick into each muffin, I found that they were all ready to rock and roll (not literally of course). 


I definitely have to say that one of the biggest problems I had and it was purely my own fault were the amount of little air bubbles that had appeared on the muffin's surface - I went a bit wild with the whisk (because it'd been ages since I'd used one) so I'd over-beaten the sugar and eggs so that the mixture actually became a bit too light and airy. There was too much air in the muffins and was hence why the surface of my muffins didn't look that appealing; the marshmallows had melted too which wasn't too much of a problem but I kinda wished they hadn't. Next time I'll remember to beat the egg mixture for a shorter amount of time, if using the whisk, or to simply use a hand whisk so that I can control the strength of the beating. As for the marshmallows, I guess I could simply put them on-top of the muffins after icing them with a bit of frosting (aka edible glue).

Freshly baked
HOWEVER, in terms of flavor, they were absolutely perfect. They were sweet and chocolatey, but not too sweet because of the courgette. The courgette gave it a really moist and soft interior, and the chopped walnuts added a bit of surprising but satisfying crunch to the muffin. And, even though I had over-beaten the mixture, it made the muffins very light and not dense (definitely good for people who are dieting but want to treat themselves once in a while!). 

A combination of ups and downs (purely because of my over-ambitious personality/ because it was 11pm and adrenaline was kicking in to keep me awake and crazy) but definitely a great recipe - I wait patiently till my muffins have been eaten (by friends of course :-) in anticipation of the day when I make them again.

Packed and ready for my friends :-D

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