Chocolate zucchini muffins

Perhaps it's the rain, but recent days have found me holding in a baking pattern. While the air cools down outside, earth damp and leaves dewy, I settle into my kitchen for another afternoon with the oven.

Yesterday, it was the baseball bat I found lurking under the leaves of my zucchini plant that inspired me. Carrying it back to the kitchen alongside cherry tomatoes and green beans, I wondered what use I could possible make of it. It was no day for a stir fry, lasagna loomed too complicated, and the freezer shelves sat already packed with dated bags: zucchini, our garden 7/12...

Suddenly, I pulled out the grater and reduced the bat to a heap of shredded squash. I donned an apron and grabbed a mixing bowl and spoon, pulled out cocoa and flour, salt and butter, cinnamon and vanilla, and prepared for a summertime ritual.

Chocolate zucchini bread has been a favorite in my family since the day we first fooled my father. While he didn't like the idea of greenery in his birthday cake, he could boast no complaints about the taste. And so we started making it for more mundane occasions: to mark the passing of another week with too many zucchini, to celebrate the arrival of a baseball bat, or to freeze for a winter breakfast with warmth and a hint of August.

Since leaving home, I hadn't had a piece; this is my first year with a garden, and it seems my neighbors are too polite to try to fool me with a sample. I, for one, won't let that stop me. With a recipe this good, it's only courteous to share.


Makes 16 small muffins or 1 10-inch loaf

In a mixing bowl, combine 2 and 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir, set aside, and preheat the oven to 350.

In a large mixing bowl, beat 3/4 cup softened butter with 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup maple syrup, and 1/4 cup honey. Add 3 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, and 2 teaspoons vanilla and continue mixing. Setting the beater aside, mix in 2 cups shredded, un-peeled zucchini. Stir in flour mixture and pour into muffin tins or one 10-inch tube pan. Do not overcook; bread should be slightly gooey at the center.

If desired, leave out cocoa for plain zucchini bread or muffins. Both versions can be drizzled when cool with a glaze of 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla beaten together for a light dessert.

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