Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Zucchini Bread, the Gooey Version

What would you do with this?

That's what I asked the farmer at the Farmer's Market on Tuesday afternoon as I held up that funky looking squash that looked more like a UFO than a vegetable.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear that our local farmers were going to set up at the market midweek, because their regular Saturday mornings are hard for us to get to with triathlon training.  On a Tuesday afternoon, the Farmer's Market was a much quieter place than it is on Saturdays.  There was no live music, no running children, no loud laughter and hoopla.  Just a few farmers at a few stands, each with a small assortment of gorgeous vegetables.  It was almost intimate, and it allowed me to ask a farmer about a strange-looking squash.  I got to hear about how his daddy would only grow that kind of squash, and how one hundred years ago it's the only kind of squash that could be found around here.  How do you cook it?  Like any other zucchini squash.

I love summer squashes because they are so light and fresh, easy to cook, and frankly, I love the way they make your teeth squeak.  After I picked up my blackberries and that one absolutely perfect tomato, I wondered what I was going to do with my zucchini.  There were so many options; steaming, sauteeing, grilling...  or I could make ZUCCHINI BREAD!  That was an easy decision.

I used to hate zucchini squash, but I think I know why.  Most of my memories of it are of well-steamed, limp, lifeless, flavorless mush that would tickle the back of my throat, triggering my gag reflex.

I must have had good zucchini in my childhood, because I know my grandfather grew it in his vegetable garden in the corner of our backyard in New York.  My earliest memories of my Papa are of him bent over vegetable plants in his short-sleeved plaid cotton shirt, weeding around a zucchini vine or a tomato plant.  Squatting in the garden in old black dress shoes and white socks, he cared for the plants that would eventually produce the food that would keep me at the dinner table far longer than I wanted to be there.  I really hated vegetables, so I wasn't enamored with anything that Papa grew, except for the strawberries and the rhubarb that mom would make into a pie. 

Papa's garden was a battlefield, and his fight was against an army of rabbits that lived in the neighborhood.  They just loved to nibble the greens off the tops of his carrots when he wasn't looking.  But since my grandmother had read Peter Rabbit to me at bedtime over and over and over again, I was always quietly rooting for the rabbits.  Papa very much resembled Mr. McGregor as he ran after the rabbits with his arms flapping.  Papa put up a fence around the garden, and the rabbits hopped over it.  Papa made the fence taller, and the rabbits dug a tunnel underneath it.  I thought for sure that Papa had won the battle when he buried the fence in a deep trench around the garden, but somehow the rabbits always found a way in.  While Papa muttered and grumbled about nibbled leaves and stems, I giggled behind clasped hands and silently cheered for Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and of course, Peter, the boldest of them all.

 I was eleven years old when I realized that I liked zucchini.  We were sitting in the car at a grocery store parking lot, and I was hungry.  My aunt had offered me a slice of zucchini bread, and I turned it down.  Why would I want bread with vegetables in it?  Aside from the pureed carrots that my aunt was feeding one of my baby cousins, that's all she had to offer.  She peeled the aluminum foil off of a homemade loaf of sliced brown bread that had little green flecks of green zucchini in it.  Gross.  But as she nibbled at the bread, I got hungrier.  As the baby finished her jar of baby food, my stomach started to grumble.  Maybe it was the ravenous state that I reached, but I begrudgingly asked for a bite of zucchini bread, and to my amazement, it didn't taste like a vegetable.  It was actually good!  I think I asked for a second piece.

Today I wanted to make gluten-free zucchini bread, but I didn't want to make someone else's zucchini bread.  I wanted to make my own.  I like to experiment in the kitchen, and most of my cooking experiments turn out pretty darn good.  But baking and cooking are two different things, and baking and gluten-free baking seem to be even more different.  You really have to understand food chemistry to figure out how to make breads soft and light, pizza dough soft, yet flat and crispy around the edges, muffins more dense than bread, but not as heavy as hockey pucks.  People have devoted a lifetime to discovering these secrets.  The rest of us follow their recipes.

I came up with a recipe that I thought might work and divided the batter into two loaf pans.  I added chocolate chips to one loaf.  It looked beautiful on the outside, but the inside looked like this.
I had to try it while it was hot, and it tasted pretty delicious.  How could I go wrong with melty chocolate?  But when bread is right from the oven it's hard to tell if the center is done.  Everything is mushy when it's hot.  Did it just need some more time?  I put it back in for 10 more minutes.  I tried it again.  (Yes, this is my second slice of zucchini bread.)  Hmmm.  Still a little gooey.  Maybe it just needed to cool a little bit.  I had the third slice when it cooled.  Still gooey, and not just the chocolate.

The other loaf was also beautiful.

 And the inside?
Soft, tasty, but gooey.  (Slice four.)

Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to lighten up the bread by using applesauce instead of oil.  Applesauce is gooey.  Maybe, despite the fact that the toothpick came out clean, it just needed to stay in the oven longer.  Maybe.  How the heck am I supposed to know???  I'm a 3rd grade teacher and a fitness instructor, not a baker!

So, I made a few modifications and I tried again.  I'll share this recipe, even though, the end result was similar.

Zucchini Bread

Dry Ingredients:
3 c. gluten-free flour (I used Pamela's Baking Mix.)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:
3 eggs
1/2 c grape seed oil
1/2 c applesauce
1/4 c agave nectar
2 tsp vanilla
1 mashed banana
3 c shredded zucchini

Optional Ingredients:
1/2-1 c chocolate chips
1/4-1/2 c chopped nuts

Directions:
1.  Shred zucchini with a food processor and place it in a bowl lined with a dishtowel.  The towel will absorb moisture while you are preparing the batter.
2.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.
3.  In a large bowl, mix together eggs, oil, applesauce, vanilla, agave nectar, and mashed banana.
4.  When the wet mixture is creamy, stir in the shredded zucchini.
5.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Then add the optional chocolate chips and nuts.
6.  Line two 9x5 inch loaf pans with parchment paper, and lightly coat them with cooking spray.
7.  Divide the batter between the two loaf pans and bake at 325 for 60-70 minutes.
8.  Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
9.  Slice and enjoy.

Makes 2 loaves of bread

And, guess what.  It was still gooey.

So, I learned a lot today. 
I learned how much I don't know about baking. 
I learned how much I want to know about baking. 
I learned that I really don't want to eat 5 slices of zucchini bread to figure out the perfect recipe each time I venture out on my own.
I learned that gooey zucchini bread really is tasty, especially when crisped up in the toaster oven.
I learned that tried and true recipes are there for a reason.
I learned that I need to learn to let some things GO.


 

7 comments:

  1. YUM. Can't wait to try it!

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  2. Have I mentioned that I love your writing? Only way I could enjoy this post more is if you read it to me in person while I was eating some of your gooey zucchini bread. ♥

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  3. Karen, I'd be happy to read them to you in person. I was just tallying Southwest points with hopes of Portland in the future!

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  4. Heather, do you promise a culinary tour if we make it to TN??!!!???

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  5. Sally, I promise culinary ecstasy! But I'll promise anything for a visit! :)

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  6. Wow, I admire your persistence. My guess is that there are too much liquids relative to your dry ingredients. I'd try omitting the applesauce altogether and see how that goes. Or use 1/4 cup oil, 1/4 cup applesauce, with a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt to thin out the batter if necessary. And you might want to scale down the recipe to 2/3 of the ingredients -- it's probably too much batter for a loaf pan. Another tip: when I make zucchini bread, I don't include the middles (the seed parts) of the zucchinis. The middle is pretty much all water and weigh the batter down. The finished batter should be pretty thick, not watery like cake batter. Can you tell I was really into baking quick breads at one point? Good luck!

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  7. Helen, THANK YOU for your tips! I think I'm on zucchini bread restriction right now since I've made 4 different versions in the past two weeks, but I'm definitely going to try your suggestions on my next try. Thanks!

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