Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rainy Day Muffin Cakes

A disclaimer, by way of introduction: I am no professional photographer, not even an avid amateur; I am only a girl granted the use of her father’s fancy digital SLR in return for keeping our kitchen stocked with freshly baked goods. The camera is heartbreakingly beautiful to me, with so many buttons and lenses and possibilities, none of which my dad or myself know how to utilize.

I suppose I could read the instructions, or all sorts of helpful advice on the Internet, but I would so much rather read recipes for zucchinis and cupcakes, especially when the day is rainy and dark and cold. Hence the vaguely blurry, greenish photos, but I promise they’re good cupcakes.

Or muffins. I adapted mine from a recipe at MarthaStewart.com, which calls them Zucchini Cupcakes, but I think, frosting or no, these aren’t much more than dolled-up muffins. The difference? A fine explanation can be found here, with which I agree: cupcakes, like cake, usually call for certain methods of preparation, like creaming together sugar and eggs, before adding in the dry ingredients (often alternating with another wet dairy item, like sour cream or yogurt). Muffins are also two bowl deals, but the mixing involves much less hassle and there is, somewhere in the instructions, the inevitable “DON’T OVERMIX”.

Whatever you prefer to call them (I like “muffin cakes”), these are dense little guys, moist and chewy. Some zucchini-based baked goods are fine on their own, but I think these are much better with the classic contrasting tang of cream cheese. (Note: next time, add more nutmeg.) Sliced in the middle – carefully, coolly, with a serrated knife – and smeared with the firm icing, the cakes’ density is lifted to happy heights (though best stored in the bottom of your fridge).

(Yellow) Zucchini Muffin Cakes

Adapted from one Ian Young’s contribution to MarthaStewart.com

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon salt

1 yellow zucchini, coarsely grated (to yield about 1½ cups)

zest and juice of ½ lemon

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, get on with butter-greasing and sugar-dusting your standard-sized muffin tin (that is, one that makes 12).

Mix together the dry ingredients: the flours, sugar, spices and salt. In a separate bowl, blend the grated zucchini, lemon zest and juice, oil, eggs and vanilla. Dump the dry ingredients into the wet. DO NOT OVERMIX OR YOU WILL OVERDEVELOP THE GLUTEN IN YOUR BATTER AND YOUR BAKED MUFFINS WILL BE SADLY TOUGH.*

Scoop the batter evenly into your tin. Properly speaking, you should fill it to about two-thirds full, but this recipe makes for a bit more. No worries; the muffins will rise and sink again a bit. (They’re imperfect looking, but quite good.) Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, though it doesn’t hurt to start checking after 30 minutes. When done, a toothpick (or chopstick, whatever you’ve got on hand) will come out clean.

Cool the muffin cakes on a wire rack for ten minutes or so; then carefully jiggle each cake out of the tin and let cool on the rack, right side up. If you’ve got an inkling for icing, I recommend cutting them in half and smearing the soft, buttery, sweetened cream cheese inside.


*"Sadly tough" looks weird in all caps, doesn’t it?

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