Another Zucchini Article!

Will you forgive me for yet another article on zucchini? It's that time of year, though. Just this morning I brought in an armful of the stuff. So naturally, "What to do, what to do?" is on my mind.

And turns out, I'm not the only one grappling with this dilemma. King Arthur Flour chefs are yammering about zucchini as well: "We bakers are thrilled! To celebrate the fullness of zucchini season, let's walk through some tips for baking with it, and look at a go-to recipe to put it to use."

We all know that in baking, we can consider zucchini as an ingredient similar to bananas or applesauce. It adds a wonderful texture and moistness to baked goods, and helps bulk up cakes and breads and muffins with a boost of nutrition, as well. And it has such a mild flavor that it pairs beautifully with everything from cinnamon to chocolate to lemon.

But before diving into a wonderful recipe, let's talk about the best ways to select and prep your zucchini for baking:

SIGHT: When choosing zucchini, look for ones with a firm, almost shiny exterior.

SOUND: If you tap it, it shouldn't sound or feel hollow - that's usually the sign of a too-old zucchini and doesn't make the best anything. (These are the ones that our neighbors are usually trying to give away, right?)

SIZE: While zucchini comes in all sizes, you don't want to pick ones that are too large - that usually indicates they've been picked too late and will be less firm inside, with a Styrofoam-like texture. I know you hate to waste, but if a quality end-product is the goal, the gun-boat-sized zucchini ought to be tossed. (BUT, if you have an idea for what to do with these, you can bet we want to hear it!)

Once you've selected your zucchini, it's time to prep. Always wash it well if you don't plan to peel it. In general, it's recommended leaving your zucchini unpeeled: most of the fiber, nutrition and lots of flavor is in the green exterior.

However, some people prefer peeling zucchini to avoid any green flecks in the final baked goods (although with chocolate recipes, you won't notice anyway!) or to avoid the texture of the peel. It's entirely up to you! But know that besides the extra work peeling it adds to your project, it's rarely very noticeable in most zucchini recipes.

Zucchini has high water content, like apples and eggplant. Seasoned cooks and bakers know that when prepping eggplant or apples, it helps to find a way to draw out the water, either by grating apples and squeezing as much water out as you can, or salting the eggplant and letting it sit as it gives off water.

If you've ever wondered if you should try and squeeze out some of the water from your shredded zucchini before adding it to batter or dough, the answer (happily) is NO! If you do, it'll lead to overly dry baked goods. Don't you love that just means less prep work for us!

Now you may have a zucchini recipe that calls for it in grams. If so, know that 1 cup of zucchini weighs anywhere between 142 and 170 grams. This is because recipes vary in whether they call for loosely packed or more firmly packed zucchini. So, try and aim for something in that realm, unless your recipe is very specific about the amount. A little more or a little less? This won't make or break your recipe.

Now that you're schooled in Zucchini 101, let's bake. Of all the zucchini recipes to choose from, how about a muffin? These muffins are a perfect zucchini recipe, as they highlight the flavor of the zucchini itself. A generous dose of lemon zest brightens up the muffins, and tangy, chewy cranberries add a burst of tart sweetness. They've got walnuts, for a toasty flavor and some crunch. The end result? A muffin that's beautifully colorful and packed with good flavors and textures. (Our thanks to King Arthur Flour,!)

Zucchini Lemon Muffins

Prep time:
Cook time:
Yield: 12 muffins

Serving size: 1
Calories per serving: 2,619.376


2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
grated peel of 1 lemon (aka lemon zest)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins or sweetened dried cranberries
2 large, room temperature eggs beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup shredded zucchini
sparkling white sugar optional; for topping

1. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Grease and flour (or line with papers) a 12-well muffin pan.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon peel in a large bowl. Stir in the walnuts and raisins.
3. In a smaller bowl (or a two cup liquid measure), combine the eggs, milk and oil.
4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients.
5. Stir just until barely combined and then gently fold in the zucchini.
6. Spoon the batter into the pan. Sprinkle with sparkling white sugar, if desired, for added crunch and flavor.
7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the muffins spring back when you press them with your fingertips.
8. Remove from oven and turn out onto a cooling rack. Serve warm or with a little butter.
9. Store, well-wrapped, for 3 days at room temperature. Freeze for up to a month.

Recipe formatted with the Cook'n Recipe Software from DVO Enterprises.

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    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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