Okay, we all know that spring is officially here and that means summer is fast approaching, and with it the question for all you eager veggie gardeners: what the @##$%Q#%@ am I going to do with all this #^$&Q@!&^ zucchini????
May I suggest zucchini bread?
‘But Twistie!’, you exclaim, ‘I have made many loaves of zucchini bread and am so burned out I have not the will to try another!’
‘Fear not,’ say I. ‘This is like no zucchini bread you have ever eaten before. I know this because I have baked and eaten umpteen gazillion zucchini breads over the decades and I have never tasted one quite like this.’
You see, most zucchini breads fail for me in one or both of two ways. All too often they are so moist as to become gummy, more like pudding with a crust than actual bread. The other common failing of zucchini bread in my experience is that they are often far more sweet than I prefer. Not that I have anything against sweet, per se, but there are things that I feel ought to be sweeter and ones that ought to be a little less so. Zucchini bread is one of those things where I sometimes feel like a salmon swimming upstream. I want it to be bread, not a sticky cake. I want it to be sweet, but not tooth-rottingly so.
Then one day last week, I walked into my Friendly Local Bookstore, started browsing the cooking section, and discovered something that had been missing from my life and my bookshelves. It’s a delightful tome entitled Good to the Grain: Baking With Whole Grain Flours by Kim Boyce.
Boyce, a former pastry chef at such restaurants as Spago and Campanile has approached her subject from precisely the angle I have been waiting to see for yonks without realizing it. You see, while most books about working with whole grains come from the angle that whole grains are Good For You, and therefore the flavors are of secondary importance, Boyce is all about how good whole grains can taste.
For those of us who honestly love the flavors of such things as barley, rye, whole wheat, etc., this is a real boon. The recipes range from bread to brownies to scones to tarts and all stops in between. They’re broken down not by what you want to bake, but by what flour you want to bake with. This means that if you can get whole wheat flour but not spelt, you can ignore the spelt chapter until you find a source.
Speaking of those sources, she’s got a page of them in the back just in case you don’t have a handy local organic or health food grocery that carries things like aramanth and teff.
Seriously, if you enjoy baking, this book opens up some great new frontiers quickly and painlessly.
And that brings me back to Boyce’s zucchini bread. It’s moist without being gooey. It’s sweet in a subtle way. It’s malty and slightly herbal with a satisfyingly crunchy crust and a delicate crumb. Boyce recommends eating it with melted butter and mint tea, but so far I haven’t been able to bring myself to adulterate it in any way.
It makes me want to plant zucchini just so I’ll have more of an excuse to bake this bread over and over and over again.
Intrigued? Good! Follow the bouncing cut and see how it’s made!
Butter for the pan
2 Tblsp basil, about 12 medium leaves
1 Tblsp mint, about 8 medium leaves
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 lb. zucchini (about 2 medium)
1/2 Cup plain yogurt
1 Cup rye flour
1 Cup all-purpose flour
1/4 Cup wheat germ
1/2 Cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. Lightly butter a standard loaf pan.
Pick the basil and mint leaves from their stems. Roughly chop the leaves and reserve. Melt butter. Add the herbs to the butter to infuse their flavor while the other ingredients are being prepared.
Slice the ends off the zucchini. Grate the whole zucchini on the largest holes of a box grater into a large mixing bowl. Ad the yogurt and eggs to the bowl and whisk thoroughly.
Sift the dry ingredients into another large mixing bowl, pouring back any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter. Scrape the butter with herbs into the zucchini mixture and stir together. Pour the zucchini mixture into the dry ingredients, gently folding until just combined (This was the one point where it got scary for me. There really didn’t seem at first to be enough liquid, and it took forever to fold enough to get all the dry ingredients moistened. Resist all urges to add more liquid, though. There really is just the right amount. Trust the recipe here.). Scrape the batter into a prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake for 60 – 70 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through (I didn’t bother changing the position of the pan because my oven heats pretty evenly, unlike the stove burners on top of it). The cake should be dark golden brown and spring back when lightly touched; a skewer inserted into the center should come out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then, invert the cake out of the pan and cool on a baking rack. The cake should be eaten at room temperature.
Wrapped tightly in plastic, it can be kept up to three days, even getting better the next day after the flavors have some time to meld together (This last bit I can guarantee to be true… except the part about lasting three days. Two was all it lasted around here, because of the deliciousness and the arrival of starving musicians.).
Seriously, if you enjoy baking, this is a fantastic book. If you are as unsatisfied with zucchini bread recipes as I was, this is a great change of pace. Give it a go! You’ll be glad you did.