I HAD THE very distinct honor two weeks ago of helping taste muffins made by the summer culinary arts students at the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center.
“They had to use challenging ingredients,” I was told.
“The students got to pick between jalapeño, peach, lemon and imitation crab as add-ins to a basic muffin recipe.”
I figured tasting four muffins would take a few minutes and be a delicious midmorning snack.
Thus, I agreed to temporarily abandon my day job as office jockey and scampered across the hall to my post.
Felt like cooking show
Well, I was treated to what felt like a complete episode of the cooking challenge television show “Chopped.”
A full hour and 16 muffin trials later, I was extremely sated and full of inspiration.
Our up-and-coming bakers have got it going on over there.
As it turns out, I tasted four muffin varieties of each special ingredient.
I tried glazed lemon and poppy seed muffins, jalapeño and cheddar muffins, crab and basil muffins, peach and cinnamon muffins, and 12 other creations.
I was floored by the inventiveness of these fine young chefs.
By far, my favorite of the day was a jalapeño-cheddar muffin studded with cream cheese pockets.
It was like a cross between a jalapeño popper and a corn muffin.
I’ll be tracking down those students to pick their brains for the secrets behind that winner.
Because they were tasked with incorporating ingredients that were a challenge, I didn’t see any chocolate muffins or zucchini bread-ish muffins in the mix.
I left the scene pondering my favorite muffin and bread recipes and remembered a tried-and-true from my early married days that coincided with the first few seasons of our CSA share (Community Supported Agriculture).
I fully realize that this is truly cake parading around as muffins or bread.
When you add some grated summer squash to a basic chocolate muffin, it results in an easy, moist and very delicious treat.
And here’s an added bonus: You’ll use up some of that zucchini piling up in your kitchen.
Can make 2 loaves
This recipe makes enough batter for two loaves or 24 muffins.
I chose to make one loaf and a dozen muffins.
Of course, smaller breads take less baking time, so you need to pay attention and adjust accordingly.
My muffins were done after 15 minutes, and the loaf was fully cooked at the 43-minute mark.
Two loaves could take as long as an hour, but I would start toothpick testing at 40 minutes just in case.
Check in a few different places because molten chocolate chips can look like underdone batter and trick you into thinking you need to bake it for longer.
No one likes dry dessert . . . er, breakfast muffins.
This is decidedly not health food, but I’m sharing it with you anyway. You’re welcome.
Chocolate Summer Squash Bread; adapted from “The Classic Zucchini Cookbook”
1 ½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
3 cups grated zucchini or summer squash
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour; you can substitute up to 1 cup with whole wheat flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly grease two 5×9 loaf pans.
Combine sugar, eggs and oil in a large bowl. Beat until well blended.
Stir in zucchini and vanilla.
In another bowl, sift together remaining ingredients, except chips and nuts.
Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir until it’s just blended.
Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.
Pour batter into the pans.
Bake for up to 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.
I start checking at 40 minutes for 2 loaves.
On wire racks, cool the breads in the pans for 10 minutes.
Insert onto the racks and cool completely.
Carrie Sanford, who shares the Peninsula Kitchen column with Betsy Wharton, is a mother, wife, educator, artist, activist and cook.
She writes the newsletter for Salt Creek Farm in Joyce during the growing season and volunteers with nonprofits and schools in Port Angeles, where she lives with her husband, Tom Sanford, and their daughter, Abby.