Saturday, July 25, 2009

Zucchini bread, three ways

Special zucchini bread with crunchy topping, adapted from 101 Cookbooks won second place in the tasting competition.

Hooray for summer! Every day on the farm brings new, exciting, and delicious bounties. Lately, the summer squash has gone for broke, and we're swimming in bright green zucchinis, stripy zucchinis, pattypans, and this curious fellow:

This year, one of our seed suppliers, Johnny's, sent out the wrong seeds to everyone who ordered Costata Romanesca squash. In fact, the lovely round squash isn't a Costata at all, but something else: still delicious and prolific, but rounder and slightly wetter than what we bargained for.

Turns out the mystery squash is perfect for zucchini bread. The seeds inside (even a larger one) aren't too big, so I just chopped off the stem, cut the squash in wedges, and used a food processor to shred it all.

I tested three recipes, a traditional sweetish walnut-cinnamon-nutmeg loaf, a slightly zany nutty loaf with a secret ingredient, adapted from 101 cookbooks and a savory zucchini-basil muffin recipe, adapted from a message board post on a Chowhound message board.

The tasting panel generally agreed that the zucchini basil muffins won out, with the zany recipe not far behind. The more traditional recipe turned out too dry and slightly over-sweet. It could have done with some soaked raisins and extra zucchini.

And the winner is...

FIRST PLACE: Zucchini Basil Muffins
Adapted from the LA Times by way of Chowhound.

1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
1 c. all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup shredded mystery zucchini (or any other type should work fine)
3 tbsp sweet basil, finely minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese to top

Beat egg in bowl, stir in milk and oil, then mix in sugar.

Sprinkle baking powder and salt evenly on top.

Mix in flour until just moistened, then gently mix in zucchini and basil.

Fill a well-buttered muffin tin so that the cups are nearly full (slightly more than 3/4). Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 450 degrees, 20-25 minutes.

Makes 6-9 muffins. You can easily double for a bigger batch.

RUNNER UP: Special Zucchini Bread with sesame crunch
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 cup chopped walnuts
zest of one lemon
2 tbsp crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 tbsp sesame seeds

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fine grain natural cane sugar or brown sugar, lightly packed
1 large egg + one yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup grated zucchini
1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tbsp curry powder

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter one 5x9 loaf pan, dust it with a bit of flour and set aside.

In a small bowl combine the walnuts, sesame seeds, lemon zest, and gingers. Set aside.

In a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until mixture comes together and is no longer. Add the eggs, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then the zucchini (low speed if you are using a mixer).

Sprinkle the baking soda on top of the mixture. Then sprinkle on the salt and curry powder as evenly as possible. Add the flour in 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until just incorporated each time. After the last batch of flour, fold in half of the walnut, sesame, ginger mixture.

Put the batter in the greased pan, making sure it is level with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Then sprinkle on the other half of the walnut, ginger, lemon mixture.

Bake for about 40-45 minutes on a middle oven rack. Check the bread after 35 minutes and cover if it begins to brown too quickly. The loaf will be done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Take the loaf out from the oven and let cool for about ten minutes, then remove from the pan onto wire racks to finish cooling.

Makes one loaf. To double, use 3 eggs instead of 1 egg + one yolk.

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