As soon as zucchini started to pop up in my farm share, I knew I had to use some of them to make zucchini bread. I found a great recipe from 101 Cookbooks, my go-to source for all-natural baking. Although it’s a perfectly fine recipe on its own, I couldn’t help tinkering with it a bit. I was wary of using curry as Heidi suggested, so I used my favorite spice, cardamom, instead. I prefer muffins to bread, and since I was planning on making huge muffins, I figured I’d try to cut down the amount of fat and sugar, without compromising flavor of course. I substituted half the amount of butter with apple butter (made from nothin’ but apples) and eliminated almost one cup of sugar by using ¼ cup xylitol, a sugar that can be found in fruit and vegetable fibers. It’s touted to protect teeth, and is often used in gum and toothpaste. In large quantities, xylitol can create intestinal discomfort, but unless you’re eating this entire recipe in one sitting, you’re safe! I used it in this recipe only to test it out. I wouldn’t use xylitol on a regular basis, since it must undergo a lot of processing…that doesn’t sit well with me. If you’d rather not use it, substitute 1 cup of natural cane sugar as is called for in the original recipe.
I’ve had some unfavorable baking results in the past when I’ve played with recipes, as baking is more of a science and one can’t just substitute ingredients willy-nilly. Thankfully, these muffins survived my experimentation. In fact, they were incredibly moist and flavorful. My husband–who won’t politely continue to eat something he doesn’t like–enthusiastically accepted a monster muffin after I fed him a taste. He loved it, despite knowing he was consuming zucchini in a muffin…I’d call that success!
This recipe yields 6 big ol’ muffins flecked with the zucchini’s dark skin and light green flesh, dotted with tender chunks of ginger and walnuts, and uplifted with bright notes of lemon. I highly recommend using Reed’s Ginger Candy for the crystallized ginger. They are so tender and only have a faint dusting of sugar instead of the thick sugary crust I’ve experienced with other brands.
Recipe for Zucchini Muffins
Makes 6 jumbo muffins, 12 standard-size muffins, or 2 loaves (5×9 inch pan)
1 ½ cups chopped walnuts
¼ cup poppy seeds
zest from 2 lemons
½ cup crystallized ginger, chopped – Almost all of 3.5-ounce package of Reed’s Ginger Candy
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened (about ½ stick)
¼ cup apple butter
¼ cup xylitol (or 1 cup natural cane sugar)
½ cup fine grain natural cane sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons quality vanilla extract
3 generous cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium, skins on) – One handful at a time, squeeze some of the moisture out of the grated zucchini and then fluff it up before measuring
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour – Whole wheat all-purpose flour works too
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cardamom
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the muffin pan, dust with a little flour.
Combine Group 1 in small bowl, reserving a couple tablespoons of the mixture to add to the tops of the muffins before baking. Set aside.
Beat the butter until fluffy. Add apple butter and beat until incorporated into the butter. Add sugars and beat until mixture is no longer crumbly. Add one egg at a time, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each egg. Stir in vanilla and zucchini by hand.
In large bowl, mix Group 3. Add to butter mixture in several batches. Fold in Group 1 except for reserved tablespoons. Mix gently.
Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups. Sprinkle tops of muffins with reserved tablespoons of Group 1, patting down mixture lightly so they don’t fall off when batter rises. Bake for about 30 minutes (adjust accordingly if not using large muffin tin). If unsure, better to have undercooked muffins for this particular recipe. Muffins will continue to bake a bit once out of oven. Remove from oven and let sit in pan for about 10 minutes. Loosen muffins from pan with butter knife, remove from pan, and place on wire rack to cool. I kept half the muffins in the refrigerator and froze the rest for future treats. These muffins freeze well wrapped in tin foil and kept in a freezer bag.