I'm still on my vegetable kick this week. I know I put you through that whole thing on Swiss chard last week, but this time will be different--we're back to cupcakes! It's always been interesting to me how someone could have come up with the idea of putting a vegetable into a cake. I read somewhere that it was a ploy to get kids to eat more vegetables. Whatever the case, it works, and our topic du jour involves the zucchini!
To be honest, the zucchini is not really a personal favorite. The best thing about the zucchini is the crisp outside, but when cooked, it's mostly mushy and can be a little blah in flavor (in my opinion). Usually, when served as a side dish, steamed or sauteed, it seems to require a lot of salt and pepper to compensate for the blandness. I tried reading up on the zucchini to try to appreciate it a little more, and I learned from Wikipedia that the zucchini is the "swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower". Hm...think about that the next time you have some. All said, my relationship with zucchini is a little ambivalent. (So far, I'm not doing a good job of promoting the zucchini, am I.)
Zucchini cupcakes (and zucchini bread) are a whole other story, however. I was originally looking for something kind of different and unique to make for a friend's birthday, and I came across this zucchini cupcake recipe from Epicurious.com, which included honey, crystallized ginger and orange zest. Perfect. The flavor combination looked intriguing, and it didn't involve a lot of guilt (anything with zucchini must not be that guilty). Also, one of my favorite things about this recipe is grating the zucchini. Yeah, I know, a little weird. Zucchinis are firm, but not hard (like carrots! I generally avoid grating carrots by hand if I can) making the grating process nearly effortless and sort of therapeutic (repetitive, mindless motions get me into a zone).
The original recipe calls for coarsely grated zucchini, and when I made it the first time, the cupcakes seemed a little hearty but turned out really moist, with a nice subtle ginger and citrus zing. I made this recipe again last week, grating the zucchini more finely and baked it up as a loaf (I didn't care so much about presentation this time around--I planned on eating most of it). It turned out a little drier (just a little)--could it be a product of how finely I grated the zucchini? Or maybe because it was a loaf instead of individual cupcakes? Nonetheless, I offered to give some of the zucchini loaf to another friend to try, but it didn't quite make it to her. (I'll make this again for her another time.)
Zucchini Ginger Cupcakes
(adapted from Epicurious.com)
Makes about a dozen cupcakes or one 9" loaf
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. finely grated fresh orange zest
1/3 cup coarsely chopped crystallized ginger (or chop more finely, as preferred)
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 cup vegetable or mild olive oil
3/4 cup mild honey (I've also used brown sugar instead)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 t. vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium zucchinis)
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and line the cupcake pan or grease the loaf pan.
In a bowl, use a wire whisk to combine the dry ingredients (not including the brown sugar, if using). In a separate bowl, whisk the oil, honey or brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and zucchini until just combined. Mix in the flour mixture on low or by hand.
Pour the batter into the cupcake pan or the loaf pan and place on it the middle or upper third rack in the oven. The cupcakes take about 20-25 minutes to bake, or 45-50 minutes if using a loaf pan. Allow to cool in the pan for about 5 to 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a cooling rack.
If you're making cupcakes, you can use the following cream cheese frosting recipe, which adds a little more verve!
Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 T. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. finely grated fresh orange zest
Cream the cream cheese and butter together in a mixer on medium until fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients and continue mixing. If the frosting is too thick, you can also add a teaspoon of milk at a time to soften it.