I made minestrone soup for Sunday dinner. Wife Jan asked for zucchini bread to go with it. While it has been a long time since I have made this bread, there is a family history behind this bread.
In the ‘60s, my oldest sister Judith went to college at Berkley. While others were becoming radicalized, she went in a different direction. She was one of the founding 13 members of the Society for Creative Anachronism and she discovered Catholicism—at the time my family was Congregationalists. She introduced my father to Episcopalianism—“Catholic light”—and then announced that she was becoming a nun. Many years later, she was bemused to learn how big the SCA had become and how so many people had taken all of that Medieval stuff so seriously—as she sat there in her thoroughly modern wimple (it had Velcro®).
My sister’s convent had commercial oven and they baked the communion wafers for most of the Catholic churches on the West Coast. Instead of leaving the oven idle—after they had made enough wafers—they baked zucchini bread to raise money for the convent’s upkeep. This was bread was dense, sweet, and it was a treat that we bought every time we visited my sister.
Wife Jan found a recipe online and asked me to make some for the dinner. Looking at the recipe I thought it would produce a loaf that would be exactly like my sister’s convent’s bread—which was less a bread and closer to a British pudding. While I kept most of the ingredients, I radically changed the both the quantities and procedures to produce a more bread-like consistency.
Zucchini is a fairly wet vegetable. Many of the recipes I have looked at grate the zucchini and then just toss them into the wet ingredients. When the dry ingredients are mixed in, either you have the problem a lot of dry flour in the bottom of the mixing bowl or you have to add more liquid to moisten the flour completely. As the loaf bakes, the liquid is released by the zucchini making the loaf into a soggy, dense mass.
To solve this problem I decided to salt and sweat the grated zucchini. After an hour, I was able to squeeze almost a cup of liquid out of three cups of the vegetable strands. By adding this flavorful liquid in at the beginning of mixing—instead of letting it leak out during baking—I did not have to add any extra liquid to hydrate the flour. The resulting loaf had a nice bread-like crumb.
Karl’s Zucchini Bread
3 cups (packed) grated fresh zucchini
1 tsp. Kosher salt, separate uses
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2¾ cups AP flour
¼ cup Karl’s Orange Infused Sugar
¼ cup white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbs. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
1. Grate three cups of zucchini.
Tip: You do not need to remove the seeds or skin before grating the zucchini.
Note: Two large or three medium zucchini makes about three cups of the squash.
2. Put the shreds into a bowl and sprinkle half of the salt over it.
Tip: Toss the zucchini frequently to spread the salty juices over the shredded vegetables.
Note: Continue tossing the vegetables for 30-60 minutes.
3. Take handfuls of the zucchini and squeeze most of the liquid into a measuring cup.
Tip: You do not have to squeeze the strands dry—just getting most of the liquid is enough.
4. Preheat your oven to 500º F.
5. Place the zucchini into a mixing bowl and stir in the melted butter.
6. Put the eggs and vanilla in a bowl and scramble them well.
7. Blend the eggs into the buttered vegetables.
8. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the rest of the salt into a mixing blow and mix them well.
Tip: You may run the dry ingredients through a flour sifter or whisk them together in the bowl.
9. Add the vegetable/egg mixture to the dry ingredients and add most of the zucchini liquid to the bowl.
Tip: You want to add enough liquid to hydrate the flour into a moist batter.
Note: While you may need to add all of the squeezed liquid, you do not want your batter to be too wet.
10. Pam two bread loaf pans and divide the batter between them.
Tip: My wife prefers the portion control of making muffins—how much is just one more slice?
11. Let your loafs rest for 10-15 minutes.
Tip: This rest gives your chemical leaveners—the baking powder and soda—time to create the tiny bubbles of gas that lifts and lightens your crumb.
12. Place your loaves on the middle rack and turn the temperature down to 350º F.
Tip: The super hot oven warms the batter quickly and causes the tiny gas bubbles to expand quickly, giving you a good oven spring.
Note: I divided the batter between 12 regular sized muffin cups.
13. Bake the loaves for 20 minutes and then rotate the pans.
Note: For muffins rotate the pan after 15 minutes.
14. Continue baking for another 20-30 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Tip: Internal temperature of 190º F.
Note: For muffins bake another 15-20 minutes.
15. Transfer the loaves to a wire rack to cool.
16. Serve warm with butter.