Thursday, July 10, 2008

Zucchini Bread

Freshly baked zucchini bread with homemade Strawberry Jam!

*I finally made this again, so I've added some pictures!

So, along with a bunch of ripe apricots, I also keep finding unnaturally large zucchini in my back yard that I can't seem to keep up with. I'm not sure how they do it, but every time I check my plants there seems to be another gigantoid zucchini hiding under all the huge leaves. Big zucchini aren't really good for too much, but they do make a mean bread!

You obviously don't have to use oversized zucchini for this recipe, but if you do, be sure to cut out and discard the spongy, seedy center part and only use the firm, outer flesh.

This recipe is pretty loosely adapted from the King Arthur Flour Cookbook's Lemon Zucchini Muffins. I substituted half the white flour for whole wheat pastry flour, used flax seeds instead of eggs, and adapted a few other things to make it as a loaf instead of muffins. The last time I made it, I tried using an even larger ratio of whole wheat pastry flour and less sugar, but it tasted too much like wheat bread and not enough like zucchini bread. You can use all white flour if you want, but I like the combo.

Zucchini Bread
Makes 2 loaves.

2 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
2 Cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
3 T. Baking Powder
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 Cup Soy Milk
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
4 T. Finely Ground Flax Seeds mixed with 1/2 Cup Water
2 1/2 Cups Grated Zucchini, packed, excess water squeezed out
1 1/2 Cups Walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 Cup Raisins, optional

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly grease 2 bread pans with oil or margarine and dust lightly with flour.

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (except the walnuts) in mix until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine the soy milk, oil, and flax mixture (I grind whole flax seeds in a coffee grinder to make a powder) .

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients. With a wooden spoon, mix until well combined, but don't overmix.

Add the grated zucchini and fold in. Add 1 cup walnut and the raisins, reserving the rest of the walnuts for the tops of the loaves. Spoon the batter evenly into the 2 pans and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of walnuts.

Bake on the center rack for about 65 minutes, until the tops are a deep, golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow the bread to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. The cooler the bread, the less likely it will squash down and get dense when you cut it. I actually like the bread best the next day after it's cooled completely!

Aaahhhh, Summer.

Can I just say that I love summer? Yeah, the warm weather is nice, but what I really like is all the sweet, juicy fruit that's in season and the abundance of tasty vegetables. I'm still waiting for most of my own veggies to start producing, but our apricot tree in the back is ripening so fast I can't keep up! I went to Tahoe over the weekend with my family and decided to try something new. I assembled two apricot pies and froze them before I left for the weekend. Then when I was up there, I popped the frozen pies in the oven, and viola! Warm homemade pies! I'd never frozen a pie before, so I was a bit nervous, but it actually worked pretty well.

When I got home, the tree was still loaded, so I decided to make jam. I used a recipe from a cute little cookbook by Alice Waters called Fanny At Chez Panisse. It's written from the perspective of Fanny, Alice's daughter, about growing up in her moms restaurant. All the recipes are pretty simple (not vegan though), and there's cute artwork and stories. Growing up, I made apricot or blackberry jam numerous times with my mom and we always used pectin. This recipe, however, didn't call for any, so I was kinda curious to see how it would turn out.

My new $5.00 thrift store pot!

Well...I think I would call it Apricot Preserves or Yummy Apricot Ice Cream Topping instead of Apricot Jam. It tastes great, and I actually like the runny consistency, but it's definitely not PB&J suitable. It would, however, be perfect with warm scones or some toasty French bread. I'm thinking about giving some to my neighbor, whichever one it is, who keeps calling the cops every time we have people over. Maybe I'll win them over with the sweetness of homemade jam and they'll leave us alone!

Not sure what this does, but my Mom does it, so I will too!

By the way, this batch of jam (which I'm not posting a recipe for cause there's a million online already) was probably the most time consuming one I've ever made. Yeah, I had to cook it longer to make up for the lack of pectin, but the real problem came when most of the jars didn't seal right. I made it last night, but by this morning, about half of the lids still hadn't popped down. I used the 'turn the jar upside down' method of sealing the first time, but tonight I had to take all the lids off, replace them with new ones, and reprocess every jar in boiling water. I also decided to make a couple jars of strawberry jam while I was at it, so that took a bit longer. As I write though, I can actually hear the "pop" of the lids sealing, one-by-one, so I think it's safe this time! Man, my feet are tired, but I think it's all going to be worth it.