Thursday, September 03, 2015

A Bread For Zucchini Madness

It happens every year...too many zucchini. It may be from your own plant, it may be the sneaky neighbor who deposited a big bag of them on your porch early in the morning, or maybe you got carried away at the farmer's market. Now you are looking for ways to use them up...look no further.

My great good friend NoHandle sent another wonderful guest post. You are going to want to make this zucchini bread my friend. If you really like it, maybe I can get some of my extra zucchini to you (just kidding). The best part about this bread is there is no chocolate. Although I love chocolate, it doesn't love me at present. Thanks NoHandle!

Zucchini Bread Again?

Perhaps the only thing more pervasive than the excessive production of the zucchini plant (it would be considered a weed if the fruits weren't edible) is the profusion of recipes you find about now to create uses for the aforementioned excessive production. Leaving bags of the stuff on neighbor's porches can go undetected for only so long, and then they force you to stop. And no fair setting the bag on fire; that is a different prank. 

At any rate, I noticed, in my hour of need, that  my favorite blog (this one) had almost all chocolate zucchini bread recipes, and so cried out for a non-chocolate rendition. (I'm a big fan of chocolate, but not everyone in the household is, and I don't want to be the only consumer of the bread; that would partially defeat the purpose. She really likes this one.) So, I cast about and found a decent looking one on the Food and Wine site. It had only one ingredient that I didn't currently have in the cupboard (and that was just a matter of timing) so I printed a copy and off I went.

To begin with, most recipes say a “medium” zucchini produces 1 cup of shredded (and squeezed out) flesh. I must have had a monster then. It produced a bit over three cups, so although the (doubled) recipe called for two cups, three cups it was to be. The remaining quarter of a cup or so went to compost.

The next issue was with the yogurt, for which the recipe the recipe called “non-fat” which in my mind meant “not really food” and the grocery store was apparently in the former camp. I ended up with a honey-flavored full-fat product, which meant there was a measure of sugar in it. The amount of sugar called for in the recipe seemed excessive, so I didn't feel bad about cutting it back in this case. I also ended up a bit short on the flour, so in included a half-cup or so (I didn't measure it) of whole wheat flour to round it out. With the extra zucchini, I wasn't too concerned with exact measurement, I just added a bit to just about everything (except sugar and oil; with full-fat yogurt, I slacked off on the oil too). And of course this was double the recipe (two loaves instead of one) which led to needing an extra large bowl to combine everything where the recipe called for only a large bowl. I think we've all been there when scaling up recipes. Mine was a glass salad bowl.

Oh, the recipe calls for coarse chopped walnuts, but we prefer smaller bits, so I used my trusty nut grinder, which produces bits about the size of half of a lentil, and smaller.

My other departure was to not consider sugar a “wet” ingredient, and including it with the dry. I mixed the eggs and oil first to create an emulsion, then added the yogurt, which preserved it. The dry (plus sugar) ingredients were already combined, so I added some shreds, and some of the liquid, to the dry, mixed that up, and added the rest. I don't have a stand mixer, but I recommend one for this application. Mix at slow speed, as the flour and batter tend to fly. My heavy-duty hand mixer was adequate to the task, but a lesser one might have started smoking, quite literally, from the strain, and that would have ruined the aroma from baking. It is a very, very dense batter. I also poured the batter alternately into the pans to keep the results consistent. I weighed them both to ensure they had about the same amounts. It was about 56 ounces each (including the weight of the pan, a bit over a pound) in case you were wondering. 

The baking time is a rather lengthy hour and ten minutes, and with two moist cakes in the same oven, a bit longer is better. I was satisfied at one hour and fifteen minutes, but another five or so wouldn't hurt. There is another long wait as the loaves cool, at least a half-hour. This is quick bread for the patient.

Note that even with surplus zucchini the pans were not quite full when baking was done. Freeze at least one to bring back memories of the closing days of summer (and the bounty of the zucchini plant) in the midst of winter, and enjoy the other while still warm (and for a few days thereafter). 

Your neighbors will appreciate this more than the raw fruit, so bake some more! (You have more zucchini, don't you?)

Here is the recipe as I did it. The measurements are approximate, but this is forgiving one.

Zucchini Bread

1 ½ cup walnut halves
4 cups all-purpose flour (substituting about ½ cup whole wheat flour works too)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 ½ cup sugar (scant)
4 large eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil (I used pure olive oil; not extra virgin nor even virgin. It has nearly no olive taste.)
1 cup honey-flavored Greek yogurt
3 cups coarsely grated zucchini, squeezed in a ta towel to remove as much liquid as you can

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter (or cooking spray) and flour two 9-by-4 ½ inch metal loaf pans. Spread the walnut halves on a small (cookie) sheet pan, and toast them for about 10 minutes, until they are fragrant. Cool them in the freezer for 5 minutes while you make the batter, then chop in fine pieces.

In a very large bowl, whisk the flower with baking powder, baking soda, and salt. If you combine the sugar at this point the dish still works. In a medium (medium is still big enough) bowl, beat the eggs and vegetable oil together until well combined, and then beat in the yogurt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, along with the grated zucchini and toasted, chopped walnuts. I found adding about 1/3 first of both, beating, and then the remaining made the process easier and the result smoother. Beat until the batter is evenly moistened.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, until the loaf is risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (about 195 degrees in an instant read thermometer).

Let the loaf cool on a rack for 30 minutes before un-molding and serving. A few additional minutes cooling of the released loaf will make slicing easier, as the center is still fairly moist.

Enjoy, NoHandle.


tanita✿davis said...

Lucky you for finding a full-fat yogurt immediately. I find that's one of the things that's tricky, if you're looking for plain in Greek-style. Mountain High is a consistent favorite brand, but I miss Nancy's - that was our fave Sonoma County brand. It adds a lot to quick breads - and I do find that using non-wheat flours definitely means that it's a wetter dough and a slower "quick" bread all-round! But, well worth the additional bake time.

Anonymous said...

For plain Greek, I favor Fage, which I can get at Costco and a few other groceries that favor "organic" stuff, but I was temporarily out. The local grocery doesn't carry it, and I ended up with "The Greek Goods Greek Yogurt" by the same (local) company that makes Celestial Seasonings tea. I wouldn't use it as in ingredient for most things, but it seemed OK for this. They had only un-flavored fat-free Greek yogurt otherwise.
I misquoted my wife in the post, she said ".. very, very good". So, it worked.

I agree that this should work fine with gluten-free flour. Thanks for your comments.