Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

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With a whirlwind of a summer behind me—planning a wedding, getting married (!), and taking a full load of graduate credits at the same time—I feel like I haven't had time to catch my breath before the back-to-school season set in.

As a teacher, the start of a new school year keeps me on my toes as I get my classroom and lessons in order. When classes begin, there is an adjustment period where my feet have to get used to the long hours of standing, my throat has to adapt to a steady stream of talking in the classic teacher voice, and my brain has to refocus on jumping between ideas at a rapid pace.

As my students and I find our new routine, the high energy required in the first couple weeks of school can be draining. This makes weekends a welcome time to recover. 

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I stayed close to home last weekend, enjoying a couple walks around the neighborhood, catching up on summer TV shows, and savoring the quiet before another work week. For the first time in what feels like weeks, I also spent some real time in the kitchen.

While the self-watering planters I built this summer did not turn out as planned (only the herbs, green beans, and bell peppers were spared from root rot), luckily the CSA (community supported agriculture) I support has been particularly fruitful.

With an abundance of zucchini filling the drawers of my refrigerator, I baked four loaves of zucchini bread before creating something a little more decadent in these double chocolate zucchini muffins.

These Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins take advantage of the late season squash. The muffins feature plenty of chocolate chunks and a hint of cinnamon for a warmer touch. I prefer to heat these up for a few seconds in the microwave until the chocolate just begins to melt. With a large glass of milk, these muffins make for a perfect afternoon snack after a long day at school.

Pro tip: Reserve a couple ounces of chocolate to sprinkle over the top to make the muffins look extra delicious. 

One Year Ago: Plum Almond Tart
Three Years Ago: Blueberry Honey Scones
Four Years Ago: Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread 
Five Years Ago: Vanilla Ice Cream Cake, Honeyed Apricot Granola Bars, & Chocolate Banana Chip Cookies
Six Years Ago: Rum Raisin Oatmeal Cookies, Banana Rum Bread, Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins, & Pear Chocolate Muffins
Seven Years Ago: 3 Milk Coconut Cake, Tomato Basil Tart, & Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread
Eight Years Ago: Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Banana Bread 

Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Yields 1 dozen muffins

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (about 180 grams) grated zucchini, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup (150 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (21 grams) cocoa powder
6 ounces (170 grams) semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a muffin pan with baking cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla until well combined. Stir in the grated zucchini. Mix in the cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Fold in the flour and cocoa powder, mixing until the batter becomes uniform. Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Fill baking cups 3/4 full and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. For best texture, let the muffins cool before eating.

Chocolate Raspberry Muffins

As one of my intentions this year, I have been trying to live in the moment. I've been guilty of using background noise to distract myself from normal, day-to-day moments—the television blares in the background, podcasts run on loop, and my cell phone is always within easy reach. As expected, some days are better than others, but my intention is to engage in more conversation instead of passive entertainment, and find joy in the quiet that comes with solitude.

When my boyfriend Chris and I were headed out to the rustic winter cabin we rented last weekend, we lost cell reception an hour before we reached our destination. Although we were a little worried about the isolation, we quickly found that a weekend unplugged was exactly what we needed.

In this case, "getting away from it all" actually meant leaving our connection to the rest of the world behind. 

With spring break approaching, I spent time in the kitchen baking in preparation for another weekend away. This time we are meeting up with family in Montana to enjoy a couple days on the ski slopes, breathing fresh mountain air.

While I usually sneak a batch of granola along on the plane, I sent this recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Muffins to my mother instead. The tart raspberries contrast beautifully against the deep chocolate flavor, making them ideal for a morning snack before heading out into the cold. 

The muffins can be frozen easily (in this case, for travel) and thawed at room temperature the evening before serving. As we enjoy each other's company, these muffins will make our time together a little sweeter.

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These Chocolate Raspberry Muffins make an ordinary morning a little more extraordinary. A chocolate muffin batter is made healthier by reducing the sugar and introducing whole wheat flour. With a handful of chocolate chips and fresh raspberries, the muffins are complete. To give the muffins a special appearance, reserve some fresh raspberries to press into the top of the batter before baking—the berries will retain their vibrant color, giving the muffins a unique appearance.

One Year Ago: Blueberry Banana Baked Oatmeal
Two Years Ago: Bananas Foster Sauce
Three Years Ago: Banana Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes & Cranberry Almond Granola
Four Years Ago: Coconut Macaroons 
Five Years Ago:  Chocolate Ginger Biscotti, Banana Cinnamon Pancakes, Raspberry Lemon Cupcakes, & Pita Bread
Six Years Ago: Blackberry Goat Cheese Tart, Arborio Rice Pudding, Chocolate Whoopie Pies, & Hot Cross Buns
Seven Years Ago: Orange Scones, Honey Rolls, Strawberry Pancakes, Chocolate Nests, & Easter Chick Cupcakes

Chocolate Raspberry Muffins

Yields 1 dozen muffins

3/4 cup (150 grams) brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (120 mL) vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (120 grams) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (43 grams) cocoa powder
3/4 cup (170 mL) milk
1/2 cup (85 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 ounces (170 grams) fresh raspberries
Raw or demerara sugar, for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a muffin tin with baking cups.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the brown sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla until uniform. Stir in the espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, flours, cocoa powder, and milk until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and raspberries.

Divide batter evenly between the baking cups and sprinkle tops with raw sugar, if desired. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Strawberry Scones

The rains of spring have arrived with determination, filling the forecast with a week of gray, overcast skies. After a long winter of snow and cold weather, I forget how much I enjoy the sound of the rain drumming against the window panes and sloshing through the gutters. In the last evening downpour, I threw open the windows and turned on the fan, bringing the deep scent of earth into the apartment. I curled up in bed with a book, eventually lulled to sleep by the steady beat of raindrops overhead.

Rainy days are my excuse to set aside the busy schedule and curl up indoors instead. The pace of a slow day is rehabilitating in a dozen small, but significant ways. These heavy gray skies may soon feel monotonous, but for now I am reveling in these moments before the heat descends. 

Once the winter season of citrus passes, I am anxious for spring produce to arrive. It is still early in the season for fresh strawberries, at least in the Midwest, but my impatience cannot always be tamed. After sorting through the tubs at the market, I found dark red berries with a sweet scent. For now, these would do.

Overcast days feel like baking days to me. After slicing the strawberries, I gently mixed them into scone batter and baked them up for a taste of spring.

Because sliced strawberries hold moisture after baking, I recommend eating the scones the same day they are baked. If you do choose to store them overnight, cover the scones, but do not keep them under an airtight seal; this will prevent the scones from becoming soggy. As an alternative, a quick 5-8 minute reheat in a 350 degrees F oven will also bring the scones back to the right consistency.

Strawberry scones are a sweet recipe to use up the fresh, seasonal strawberry bounty. Sliced strawberries are mixed into a classic scone dough which is flavored with vanilla bean seeds. Once baked, the scones are topped with a vanilla bean glaze for extra sweetness. The scones hold moisture so they are best eaten the same day they are made. Serve for a special breakfast or enjoy as part of a morning snack.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Hazelnut Rolls
Two Years Ago: Blueberry Oat Bars & Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Blackberry Cupcakes
Four Years Ago:  PB & J Muffins, Almond Butter Chocolate Cookies, Sunflower Seed Bread, Blackberry Fool, Lime Curd Tart, Honey Chocolate Chunk Cookies, & Strawberry Charlotte
Five Years Ago: S'mores Cupcakes, Mai Tai, Homemade Mascarpone, Ladyfingers, Tiramisu Cake, & Honey Wheat Cake
Six Years Ago: Lemon Thins, Vanilla Pear Muffins, Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies, & Chocolate Raspberry Pots de Creme

Strawberry Scones

Yields 8 scones

Strawberry Scones
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (28 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold butter, cubed
8 ounces (225 grams) fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 large egg
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream

Topping
Egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, whisked)
Raw or turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Vanilla Glaze (optional)
1/2 cup (62 grams) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender (or your hands) until mixture resembles coarse sand. Gently fold in sliced strawberries. 

In a small bowl, beat together egg, vanilla bean seeds, and heavy cream. Pour over the scone batter and lightly mix until the dough comes together. 

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, form a circle, and flatten it until it is about 1-inch thick. Using a sharp knife dipped in flour, cut 8 equal pie wedges. Transfer scones to a baking sheet using a flat spatula dipped in flour. Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

For the glaze, stir together all ingredients in a small bowl. Using a spoon, drizzle glaze over cooled scones. Allow at least 15 minutes for the glaze to set before serving.

Scones are best if served on the same day. If storing, cover the scones, but do not keep under an airtight seal.