Well well well,
I thought I'd seen it all. I really did.
As a general rule, I like and use many of the recipes from Bon Appetit and Gourmet that are published on the web on Epicurious.com. And there is a good reason for that. They are good. Sometimes they are very good. This is an instance of the very good variety.
Only one problem -- they are cupcakes, really, masquerading as muffins. Funwithfood, that clever baker, has transformed a knock-down good recipe for a 13x9 unfrosted nut-and-chocolate-chip-topped chocolate zucchini cake into some darn fine cupcakes full of sass, flavor, interest, and staying power. But that does not preclude them from the muffin challenge even though, properly, these are cupcakes.
As I was making and baking them, my mind kept saying "cupcakes" over and over. But when I bit into on, fresh from the oven (ooooh the melting chocolate, the crispy nuts, the slight textural interest from the nearly-dissolved grated zucchini) my mouth said "muffins".
So, they are muffins. Rich, decadent, over-the-top, undignified, calorie-laden, shameless hussies of muffins. Luring you near with their tantalizing aroma, their brazen display of flavors in the nuts and chocolate chips on tops, their promise of rich and moist texture within a slightly crispy shell. And, yeah, they deliver.
But can I eat them daily with coffee? Heck, yeah! Will I? In the interest of my daily breakfast calorie intake, I'll probably limit these to "company's coming" occasions, but then I will produce them with pride and confidence that my breakfast guests will be wowwed. (Does wowed have one "w" or two? Hm. :)
So let's discuss the few drawbacks to this entry, though I must admit that the drawbacks crumble into nothingness in my mind while munching on one of these ebony-colored beauties.
The mixing is fussy -- well, it's cake batter. Like this matters? Well it takes significantly longer to mix these, with the zucchini grating and such, but they are soooo worth it.
Funwithfood, in what universe do these get baked for only 12-15 minutes in a 325-degree oven? In standard muffin cups (greased, no muffin papers) these took almost a half an hour! And my oven is new and accurate and has a thermometer and I'm sure it was 325. The cake, the recipe says, takes 50 mintues. These were liquid still in the middle after 20 minutes! Do you bake them at a higher temperature?
This recipe makes a TON of muffins. I overfilled 18 muffin cups, and then I ran out of cups! I put the rest of the batter in a mini-loaf pan, which worked well. (Hm, that's an idea -- give mini-loaf cakes of this fab cake to people as holiday gifts!)
They fell a little in the center and didn't mound up like cupcakes do, but that's because of the heavy load of chips and nuts on top. Again, soooo worth it. There is nothing feathery or light about these muffins.
It's almost not fair -- a chocolate muffin, at least in my book, is almost always going to be my favorite. But there is no denying it. This is the best muffin so far. Let's get to the numbers:
Taste: 10 out of 10. Yep, that good.
Texture 5 out of 5. Perfection. Good crispy outside. Melting moist center, not tough. Textural interest from zucchini, chips, and nuts. Oh, yeah. The combination of unmelted butter and vegetable oil really works well. The moistest muffins I've made have been the Cook's Illustrated-endorsed melted butter way (which could be oil). But cakes, which this one is, are made usually with creamed butter(unless they are, of course, oil cakes, like carrot and zucchini cakes often are). This recipe cleverly combines both creamed butter and oil for maximum taste and texture delivery.
Mixing: 0 out of 1. It's a pain, but I sure don't care. Do you?
Ingredients: 0 out of 1. Long list. But like it matters.
Baking: 0 out of 1. Had to do some serious guesswork.
Freezing: 1 out of 1
Defrosting: 1 out of 1 -- These freeze like champs.
Thanks for the great entry, Funwithwood. You are currently in the lead with 17. Here's a recap of the other entries:
1 Oatmeal Apple Nut Muffins -- LisaN - scored a 16
2 Cranberry Muffins -- Smokey -- scored a 16.5
3 Pumpkin Muffins -- Caitlin McGrath -- scored a 15
4 Auntie Bee's Cardamom Apricot Muffins -- scored a 13
Next up -- Muffin's suggestion of making Golden Grand Marnier Cake into muffins. Another foray into cake-into-cupcake-into-muffinness!