Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Secret Loathing - Zucchini Bread?

"Zucchini bread has become more of a symbol of neighborly affection and goodwill than a dish that people enjoy eating." - Bakers Illustrated
In fact, the referenced cookbook, which claims it is the practical kitchen companion for the home baker, asserts that rarely do people actually eat the green-flecked bread they "make, give and receive with abandon."  (I took some to my neighbors today.)

To save us well-intentioned quick-bread makers the embarrassment of giving lead-gut loaves that end up covered in frost in the back of someone's freezer, the editors of this tome of baking advice came up with their own squashy loaf, departing from what they describe as the "standard zucchini bread recipe published in countless collections of community recipes and home-style cookbooks." 

These "collections" use vegetable oil, which the food testers found flat tasting and bland.  Instead, they substituted butter.  They also used plain yogurt and lemon juice for tanginess and acidity to counter the blandness of the other ingredients, and eliminated flavorings such as vanilla and cinnamon, which they found out of place.  Other common mistakes:  too much zucchini made the bread gummy, too much sugar (more than 3/4 cup) made the bread too sweet.  They gave the thumbs-up to nuts, which added textural contrast to the moist bread.

Below is the resulting recipe, which the master bakers dub "a brightly flavored, lightly sweetened quick bread with a moist crumb."  I like it, but next time I will check for doneness at 50 minutes.   Ovens vary, you know.

I think the best part of this bread is not the bread at all.  It's Ina Garten's (yup, there she is again!) cream cheese spread.   You'll find that beneath the bread, but it really should go on top.  Hee..hee...

Zucchini Bread
(Baking Illustrated)
Makes one 9-inch loaf

2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 pound zucchini, washed and dried, ends removed, cut in half lengthwise and seeded if using large zucchini, each half cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C pecan or walnuts, chopped coarse
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C plain yogurt (whole-milk, low-fat, or nonfat is fine)
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 T. juice from one lemon
6 T. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

  1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out excess.
  2. In a bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the zucchini and two tablespoons of the sugar until the zucchini is coarsely shredded, 12 to 15 one-second pulses.  Transfer the mixture to a fine-mesh strainer set at least two inches over a bowl and allow to drain for 30 minutes.  Alternatively, you can shred the halved zucchini (don't cut it into one-inch pieces) on the large holes of a box grater; toss with the two tablespoons of sugar, and drain.
  3. Meanwhile, spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, five to seven minutes.  Transfer the nuts to a cooling rack and cool completely.  Transfer the nuts to a large bowl; add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk until combined.  Set aside.
  4. Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice and melted butter in a two-cup glass measure until combined.  Set aside.
  5. After the zucchini has drained, squeeze it with several layers of paper towels to absorb excess moisture.  Stir the zucchini and the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture until just moistened.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. 
  6. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool for at least an hour before serving.  (The bread can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to three days.)
A note about loaf pans - These baking experts recommend metal loaf pans with a nonstick coating and their favorite was el-cheapo Baker's Secret Nonstick for $4.  Now there's a tip!

Cream Cheese Spread
(Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics)

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (I used less-fat variety)
1/3 C granulated sugar
1 T. grated orange zest

With a mixer, beat the ingredients on medium speed until just combined. 

Sweet and simple.  Smear a big glob of this on that bread and your bread will be loathsome no more!

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad to be your lucky neighbor!! Not only you and your family are great people to have around, but I also get to taste some wonderful treats!! And the zucchini bread was another super-yummy first for us!! THANK YOU!! (btw, the spread is very good too!!)