Something’s come over me this week. I’m baking, often. (OK, often for me, which means at least twice.) I think it’s connected to the weather – why do I always talk about the weather? – and the fact that fall is snaking its way into my life. Sign No. 1 – I bought mums at the garden store on Labor Day weekend. I couldn’t help myself. Just don’t ask me where I planted them. I haven’t, not in the ground and not in a real pot. Sign No. 2 – My feet are perpetually cold and my hands are usually numb at the office. I guess it’s time to give up my summer sandals and start wearing socks. Have I mentioned that I hate socks? I do; my feet were made for flip-flops. And I’m determined to find a pair of knitted fingerless gloves for the office. You know, a nice pair to wear while I’m typing and freezing. Sign No. 3 – I’m craving comfort food and all sorts of baked goods. A dangerous combination, but can you blame me? I’m already thinking about soups and stews and chilis and casseroles.
I’m a little embarrassed to say that I never used to pay much attention to the fall harvest season. But it’s hard not to be inspired and fall in love with all of the bounty that arrives in late August and September. Zucchini, of course, is a season staple. Peaches are popular, tomatoes overflow. I can have my pick of peppers or red onions or yellow squash. There are so many varieties of apples at the farmer’s market that I usually buy a big mixed bag of my favorites and devise senseless reasons to bake apple pies.
So if you can’t find cooking inspiration in autumn, you’re not trying very hard. Mid-week, well into my baking foray, I decided to do something (anything!) with the zucchini sitting on my countertop. Its best days were passing and I knew I needed to use it. I considered zucchini bread, but that little adventure would have marked the second quick-bread in a row this week, so I wracked my brain after a very long (and cold) day at work and compared recipes and decided to make zucchini muffins. Easy enough, but then I remembered the chocolate chips sitting in the pantry and, as you may or may not know, I will find a way to add chocolate to my daily diet, as if it is my life’s mission. Which led me to the tin of sweetened cocoa in my cupboard. Wouldn’t you know it – I wanted to include that, too.
Be forewarned: the batter will become incredibly thick after the addition of the flour mixture. Don’t be afraid. My hand-mixer chugged along, but I eventually turned the batter by hand and found it easier to maneuver after I added grated zucchini. You can add more or less, depending on what’s available. A cup and a half this time seemed right.
Truthfully, I’m not convinced these little delights would be nearly as good if I hadn’t added that tablespoon of cocoa. A tablespoon isn’t very much, but it certainly did give the muffins an extra and evenly distributed chocolate-y flair, above and beyond the chocolate chips. I intended to take photos of the full dozen muffins, but they didn’t last very long out of the oven. Now, pardon me, but I have to hunt down my wool socks and my down-feather parka and hunker down inside the house, practicing for – if I write it, it will arrive – winter.
Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins
(adapted from www.epicurious.com)