Wednesday, July 21, 2010

And Everything Nice

Recipe Below: Cinnamon Spice Zucchini Bread

It’s zucchini season! Zucchini abounds! Those lucky enough to be growing their own are overwhelmed with hoards of gourds (Ha! I rhymed!), and those not so lucky (like me, *sigh*) can get theirs on the cheap at the farmer’s market and grocery store. Win!

Do I even need to tell you where I’m going with this?

Zucchini bread of course! How can you not make zucchini bread when faced with it? I happened upon 3 such gourds of summer heaven, grown fresh from a local farm, recently, and it was never a question in my mind what to do with them. I got them at the farm, actually. What can I say? Having a Corgi gets you connected. Especially when the woman who owns the farm has 2 Corgis herself, and often invites a dozen other Corgis over to romp around her grounds.

You know what’s great about zucchini bread? You know, besides the fact that you get to essentially make a dessert, get away with calling it breakfast, and tell yourself it’s healthy because there’s a modicum of vegetable in it? It’s like a blank canvas. Well really, that’s what’s so great about quick breads in general.

What’s a quick bread?

Time out! Pull up an uncomfortable desk with gum stuck to the bottom. School is in session.

Ahem. Quick breads, for those not hip to the lingo, are breads that use leaveners like baking soda and baking powder instead of yeast. Without yeast you don’t have to worry about things like kneading, rising, and gluten development. You just apply heat to the mixture and they puff right up. Quick! Also, obviously, they have a completely different texture and flavor than yeast breads. Besides loaves like zucchini, banana, and pumpkin breads, other examples of quick breads include muffins, pancakes, biscuits, and waffles.


That’s all for today class!

Quick breads are like blank canvases because they take on a variety of flavors and ingredients well. They can be breakfast or dessert, sweet or savory, decadent or healthy! You can easily elevate them with the addition of fruit, nuts, chocolate, and my personal favorite, booze! Which brings me to this zucchini bread. I happen to love this zucchini bread. This is my go-to recipe. But as the above spiel points out, you can modify it any which way to make it your own. So let’s talk a little about what I put into mine, and ways you could possibly make it yours...

I think zucchini is the best place to start. First off, you don’t even have to use zucchini. Any summer squash will do. Heck, swap it for carrots if you want! Some people would peel the skins off first, but I left them on. That’s where all the nutrients are, and by now you know how I am about throwing out the healthy parts! They softened right along with the flesh, so it definitely wasn’t a textural issue. Plus, they added cool green flecks to the bread!

Did you know that a great way to lighten up quick breads is to replace some of the oil with a mashed fruit or vegetable? Of course you did! Banana and pumpkin are excellent choices, but applesauce works great when you have another fruit or vegetable you want to be the star. It adds fluff without taking over the flavor. I use it in muffins all the time, so I try to always have a small jar on hand. I like the ones advertised as “naturally sweetened”, which just means no added sugar. If you have one with sugar, you might want to lessen the sugar in the recipe a bit.  [Edit: A reader with far bigger brain mass than I pointed out that naturally sweetened really just means they added fruit juice concentrates and other essentially-sugar-like products, and you're better off buying an applesauce that actually says no sugar added.  I agree 100%!  If you can find it, use it.  I could not, but that just means I have to look harder.  Apparently Motts sells a version.] 

I used only whole wheat pastry flour. It’s whole wheat flour that is ground finer than regular whole wheat flour, so the texture stays a bit lighter. I don’t see it sold at the big chain grocery stores, but any health food store (like Whole Foods) should have it, and in San Diego, places like Henry’s and Sprouts and Jimbo’s sell it. I love having it on hand, so I would recommend the purchase, but I definitely understand picking and choosing flours to stock your pantry with. AP flour, whole wheat flour, white whole wheat flour, bread flour, self rising flour, cake flour... Who has room for all that?! Not me. I stick to 4...okay, 5. AP, white whole wheat, whole wheat pastry, bread, and cake. And sometimes regular whole wheat (i.e. red whole wheat).

Hi, my name is Julie, and I have a problem with flour. 

Also, I need a bigger pantry!

If your sponsor is telling you to be strong and resist yet another bag of flour, or you just aren’t interested in a special trip to the store, you can, as always, use all purpose flour instead. It’s all purpose! But if you have some form of whole wheat flour, I would suggest half and half. It really adds a nice density to the bread that goes great with the spices. If I gave you some speech about the whole grains sopping up the booze for a boozier flavor, would you believe me? Ok fine, but it does add fiber and protein! So there!

Did I mention booze? Of course! What’s a quick bread without booze? Besides, you know, kid friendly. Heh. Bourbon, naturally. Bourbon goes awesome in quick breads. It imparts a deep, smokey flavor that goes great with nuts and spices. Oh the spices! Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg...oh my! But the spice of all spices. The spice that makes this bread “the recipe” for me is the cardamom. Ever baked with cardamom? It’s magic. Almost floral. And potent! A little goes a long way, so be careful. It’s that ingredient that will make people go, “What is that hint of deliciousness I am tasting?” It can be a bit tricky to find, but I managed to find some at one of the big grocery chains. You just have to train your eyes away from the generic brand and over to the expensive ones right beside them. I know, I usually don’t bother either. But it might just be there! If you don’t have it, just leave it out. It’ll still be great. And if you’re going for a simpler palate, you could always nix everything but the cinnamon.

Nuts are always optional, but I like the texture contrast from their crunch, and the flavor they add. I prefer walnuts, but Husband isn’t a fan, so I use pecans instead.

If you’re wondering what those cinnamon-colored splotches are on my bread, that would be cinnamon chips! You know, like chocolate chips, but cinnamon. Again, they’re sold in all the big chain markets, right in the baking section along with the toffee chips or peanut butter chips. It was my first time baking with them, so it was a bit of an experiment. I didn’t expect them to melt, but since they’re essentially just flavored sugar, it does make sense.

Why do I love this zucchini bread so?  First off, it's moist!  Dense but moist, as good bread should be, thanks to the applesauce and zucchini.  The bourbon and pecans give a wonderful deep flavor, while the orange zest and spices make everything party together in your mouth.  And it's healthy.  What?  It is!  It's 100% whole wheat, it has vegetables, fruit, and nuts for protein.  And that tiny bit of oil wouldn't hurt a fly!  We just won't talk about the sugar.  Husband was so convinced by my argument that he went ahead and ate it for breakfast.

What do you put in your zucchini bread?

Cinnamon Spice Zucchini Bread
adapted pretty heavily from Serious Eats

Makes 1 loaf+

3 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce (preferably “naturally sweetened”)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp orange zest
2-3 TB bourbon
2 cups zucchini, shredded (about 3 small zucchini)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup cinnamon chips (optional)

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and coat a 9x5 loaf pan with butter spray. 
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the eggs, oil, and sugars until light and thick, a few minutes.  Add the applesauce, orange zest, vanilla, and bourbon and beat until combined.
  3. Place the shredded zucchini in a kitchen towel (or a stack of paper towels), and gently squeeze out any excess moisture. Stir the squash into the wet mixture. 
  4. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and mix until just barely combined. Don’t overmix! Gently fold in the pecans and cinnamon chips if using. 
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until a cake tester (i.e. toothpick!) comes out clean. It’s a good idea to rotate the pan halfway through. 
  6. When it’s cool enough to handle, turn the bread out onto a cooling rack to cool completely, at least 30 minutes. 

Note: I ended up with a bit of extra batter, so I filled about 2 muffin cups with the extra, and pulled them out after about 30-40 minutes. They’re great for testing for poison while your bread is cooling. 


  1. Cinnamon chips!! That is brilliant! :)

  2. So I planted 6 zucchini plants for 2 people. SIX. Needless to say, I am overwhelmed with zucchini. I don't think I could look at another one after this season. So I've been making various version of zucchini bread and came across yours and tried it. This is the best zucchini bread I've ever had!! Thanks a million! There's just somthin' 'bout cookin' with booze, huh? ;)

    P.S. If a label says 'naturally sweetened' it does not mean no sugar added. It means they sweetened the product with concentrated fruit juice (which is basically no different from sugar, calorie-wise). So next time, buy the applesauce that says 'no sugar added.' Motts makes a good one in a huge jar that I frequently bake with.

  3. DFT, wow that is a HUGE compliment! Thank you so much! I have a great tex-mex zucchini casserole I like to make when I have a lot of summer squash. Found it on the Food Network website. It's basically just shredded squash, tossed with salsa and green chiles (and I add black beans), and topped with some cheese and baked. It sounds so simple, but the flavors are wonderful!

    That's an excellent point about the applesauce. I wasn't trying to kid myself that it was any healthier than regular applesauce. Heh. I was thinking the flavors might vary a little, but I guess they have food scientists to ensure the sweetness level is the same. I'll have to look for the no sugar added next time, I don't think the store I was shopping in carried it. Poop! But I'll update the post for your suggested product. Thanks!