Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Time for Zucchini

Now that Malcolm is able to entertain himself for longer periods of time, I've been able to spend time baking/cooking. In the last month or two I have made my own bread a couple of times (yes, I used to do it almost every week, but between baby and boredom, I've let it go for a while), canned strawberry jam, baked carrot cake cookies, made Mark Bittman's no-mayo cole slaw twice (and then discovered that Benjamin doesn't like it, although he allowed that mine was "better than most"), made croutons (done right, much better than store bought, but I don't usually have the right bread on hand), and baked zucchini bread twice. A while ago, I thought I had found my favorite zucchini bread recipe when I found one in Beard on Bread, but then I found a recipe in Baking Illustrated, and my life has been changed forever.

This bread is light and fluffy, not heavy and gummy like most zucchini breads I have ever made or eaten. It is almost cake, but isn't over-loaded with sugar or eggs. I can see myself making it several more times this summer, and strongly encourage you to give it a try.

Zucchini Bread from Baking Illustrated
Makes one 9-inch loaf

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 pound zucchini, washed and dried, ends and stems removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped coarse (I left these out in the second batch so I could feed it to Malcolm without difficulty, and because I am not a huge fan of nuts in bread. Either way is fine)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plain yogurt (recipe says you can use whole-milk, low-fat, or nonfat. I used whole-milk because it is what I had on hand)
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon (I used lemon for the first loaf, but didn't have any on hand for the second, so I used lime. Still worked well, and the bread has a slightly more green tinge.)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
2. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the zucchini and 2 tablespoons of the sugar until the zucchini is coarsely shredded, twelve to fifteen 1-second pulses. Transfer the mixture to a fine-mesh strainer set at least 2 inches over a bowl and allow to drain for 30 minutes. Do not skip this step. It allows the zucchini to get rid of a lot of water that would make the bread soggy.
3. Meanwhile, spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Don't allow to burn. Cool completely. Transfer 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 2 tablespoons sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice, and melted butter in a 2-cup glass measure until combined. Set aside.
5. After the zucchini has drained, squeeze the zucchini with several layers of paper towels (or a clean cloth towel to prevent ripping) 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 in the center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes (in my oven, well heated, 50 minutes was just right). Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool for at least an hour before serving (if you can wait that long!).

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