Monday, September 27, 2010

"Zucchini Makes a Healthier Bread"

One of my favorite locations in Boston is the North End, for three reasons: 1) Little Italy, 2) Quincy Market, and 3) Farmer's Market. THe latter of these is arguable my favorite, considering it has saved me hundreds on fresh produce. Sometimes, though, you get more than you bargained for and end up having a fridge full of produce that you have no chance of finishing before it goes bad. One such example is from my most recent trip to the market, where I purchased 2 enormous zucchini. The solution? Bake with it, and 'tis the season for sweet spiced breads (i.e. pumpkin, sweet potato, etc). 
The phrase "zucchini makes a healthier bread" was precisely the belief of American households in the 1960s, when the recipe first became popular (according to Jean Anderson, author of The American Century Cookbook). It was also believed that baking with oil rather than butter was better for you, and thus quick breads like this one became extremely popular. Granted, zucchini bread is not usually frosted (like other sweet breads), and it employs fresh zucchini, but it is by no means a "healthier" food. 
The recipe for zucchini bread descends from a long line of European sweet vegetable desserts, such as my previous entry on Carrot Cake. Unlike carrots, though, the flavor of zucchini cannot take credit for the bread's overall taste. It is more the fibrous delicacy of the vegetable that creates a beautiful, moist texture. This is why it is ill-advised to pat the shredded zucchini dry, which some recipes call for. This recipe requires no electronic mixer (regardless of how much I adore my KitchenAid), and can be in the oven in less than 15 minutes. One word of caution: this recipe calls for a baking time of 60 minutes, though I would recommend testing the bread for doneness after 40 minutes. I only used pecans in my bread, though a number of add-ins are possible for this recipe (see below). 

Zucchini Bread

Adapted from SmittenKitchen 
Yield: 2 loaves or approximately 24 muffins

- 3 eggs

- 1 cup olive or vegetable oil

- 1 3/4 cups sugar

- 2 cups grated zucchini

- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

- 3 cups all-purpose flour

- 3 teaspoons cinnamon

- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

- 1 teaspoon baking soda

- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

- 1 teaspoon salt

- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

- 1 cup dried cranberries, raisins or chocolate chips or a combination thereof (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8×4 inch loaf pans, liberally. Alternately, line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in oil and sugar, then zucchini and vanilla. Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and whisk together. Stir this into the egg mixture. Add the nuts, chocolate chips and/or dried fruit, if using. Divide the batter into prepared pans.

Bake loaves for 60 minutes, plus or minus ten, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Muffins will bake far more quickly, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

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