Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Slaying the monster

Oaky, I don't have pictures, because I'm lame. But I did my best to conquer the monster zucchini. I fear that ultimately the marrow won. After three batches of zuchinni bread (five loaves and a dozen muffins), half the squash still sits in my fridge, mocking me. But I'll have the last laugh. It's gonna sit there until it shrivels or rots.

So, zuchinni bread. A use-it-up staple. A stalwart of the church bake sale. A less-guilt-provoking form of cake. Always pretty good. Always a little boring.

I did not want five loaves of boring in my freezer. So this is what I did. I pulled out the Silver Palate Cookbook for my baseline recipe (Silver Palate being the best go-to cookbook for 1980s favorites). I laid out three bowls and started measuring the dry ingredients into each one, replacing 1/2 cup of the flour with whole wheat pastry flour and adding 1/4 cup of toasted wheat germ into each one.
So each bowl got:
1 1/2 cup white flour
1/2 wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
Bowl one then got 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon (heaping) of cloves, and a teaspoon of ginger. Bowl two got a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest. Bowl three got 1/2 teaspoon of dried orange peel and 1/2 cup of cornmeal.

Now for the wet mix. I reduced the sugar by 1/4 cup for all three versions. Otherwise stayed pretty much with the original.

1 1/4 cup sugar (Batch one got dark brown, batch two got 1/2 c light brown, 3/4 cup white, batch three got all white)
1 1/4 cup oil
3 eggs (omega-3 type, for increased nutrition)
1 tsp vanilla (skipped for batch three)

Beat the heck out of each of these, then blended in the zucchini. The recipe called for two cups - I increased that to three for batches one and two, and kept it at two, but added an additional cup of shredded carrots, to batch three.

Now, the zucchini part turned out to be a bit tricky. I usually shred by hand, because I have a tiny, irritating food processor with no shredder attachment. Or at least, no shredder attachment I can find any more. Maybe it came with one. I don't know. But I wasn't going to shred all that squash by hand. So I used the blade, and it kind of hacked the zuchinni into little bits. Which was fine for Batch One, because I started on the stem end and it was kind of narrow, so there was less moisture and the bits stayed relatively dry. But by Batch Two, the bits had turned into soup. I sort of strained them, but I pretty much ruined (in an aesthetic way, though thankfully not a can't-eat-it way) Batch Two. Those loaves came out really spongy, the result of WAY too much water. Having been observant enough to notice that the batter for Batch Two was as thin as my G&T, I squeezed the excess moisture from the zucchini for Batch Three. This batch was the winner, so I'm doing that from now on.

Back to the variations...

Okay, at the end, you get to fold in the fun stuff. Batch One (spices, dark brown sugar) got dates and toasted walnuts. Batch Two (lemon zest, light brown sugar) got dried cranberries and candied lemon peel (which fell to the bottom because the batter was wet, wet, wet and thin, thin, thin). Batch Three (cornmeal, orange peel, carrot) got candied ginger.

Batch one made a spicy, dark, good but relatively traditional zucchini bread. Batch Two suffered from issues unrelated to its flavors, which were fine. But Batch Three was a major winner. That 1/2 cup of cornmeal, which I feared would disappear, proclaimed itself, and played well off the classic carrot-orange-ginger combination. The color was lovely (sorry again for the lack of pics). And the whole thing was so unexpectedly non-zucchini-bread-ish. I will definitely make this again. And, as far as cake goes (because who are we kidding here, this stuff is cake), this version has at least some nutritional virtues - some zucchini, some carrot, a bit of whole grain, omega-three eggs. I could almost convince myself that it's good for me. It's good for my soul, at any rate, to have a freezer full of zucchini bread. Made stock this weekend, too, so my freezer at the moment, full as it is of baked good, stock, homemade pesto cubes and local pork and beef, has some serious happy energy. Good thing, too, because I'm going to have no time to cook for the next month.


Janet said...

Delicious! The cornmeal creates an excellent texture.

I had a few questions as I worked through Batch Three. Bake at 350 for an hour? It seemed a safe guess. How many loaves does one batch make? I doubled the recipe (big zucchini) and made three.

What made you choose dried orange peel and candied ginger instead of fresh? Were they what you had on hand, or do they act differently in cake? There was a lovely, subtle ginger smell when I first cut into it. I thought perhaps fresh ginger would taste mediciney. I used about 1/4 cup diced between two batches. I was afraid they'd make unpleasant ginger raisins, but couldn't see them anywhere in the final product.

There's one more monster lurking in the garden. There's still space in the freezer. Its fate is sealed.

Pyewacket said...

Janet - I'm so glad you liked it! I had a piece just this morning.

I made two loaves from my standard-sized batch, but one of my loaf pans is not standard sized. It's an old pan, probably about an inch wider and an inch longer than my Pyrex loaf, and very straight-sided, so it holds a good bit. Depending on the size of your pans, you might get three or four loaves from a double batch.

I did bake on 350, though I tend to just estimate with timing, so I can't say for how long. About an hour sounds right.

I used dried orange peel because I dodn't have any fresh on-hand, but either would work; obviously you would use more fresh. I used candied ginger because I do think it tastes better than fresh in most baked goods - just that medicinal edge that you mentioned. Sometimes I use fresh in a gingerbread, along with dried and molasses, but if the background flavors are mild, I tend to stick with candied. I chop the ginger pretty fine, nearly a mince, and so don't usually get chewy bits. I think I used a bit more than you did, about the same amount, but for only one batch. But I have a high tolerance for ginger.

Jonathan said...

This was all delicious, batch one was my personal favorite! Thanks for sharing it with me :)