Family Reunion: The Zucchini Bread Challenge

This past weekend, we had our annual family reunion. Over the years, many family members have reconnected and learned how much I love to bake. One of my cousins came into the house and greeted me by saying, “Amy, I have a challenge for you!” which made me smile. He asked me to make some zucchini bread for him and his best friend, who had never eaten this special summer bread before. I accepted, of course, as our garden is overflowing with zucchini right now and we aren’t exactly sure what to do with all the bounty. This bread is really easy to make, especially if you have a food processor handy. I chose to leave the seeds and skin on the zucchini to add some fiber in the bread, but you can discard if you prefer.

To get started, I pulled 2 small zucchini from the garden. They were about 7 inches long each. After removing the flower and washing them, I julienne cut them and then diced into small bits. 2 small zucchini made 2 cups of chopped up zucchini. I tried to use an all-purpose grater at first, but found it wasn’t as easy as just cutting them. If you had a food processor (which I do, but didn’t feel like dragging out), you could easily dice the zucchini by putting slices into the processor and pulsing it a few times. Once I was done chopping, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees F.

Zucchini Bread 1 Cutting Zucchini

I combined the team of liquids for the Clabber Girl Zucchini Bread recipe: 3 fresh eggs, 1 c. vegetable oil, 2 1/4 c. sugar and 1 tbsp. vanilla extract. The eggs also come from our backyard; we have a flock of ISA Browns that lay large eggs and silkies that lay small to medium eggs. I used 3 large eggs for this recipe, but could have used 4 small ones instead. I decided to use 1 c. brown sugar and 1 1/4 c. white sugar in place of all white sugar. I enjoy rich quick breads that are dark in color and dense. If you prefer lighter color breads that are also lighter in density, use only white sugar.

Zucchini Bread 2 Mixing Team Liquid

Once this was combined thoroughly, I dumped in team dry: 3 c. all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. Clabber Girl Baking Powder, 1 tsp. Clabber Girl Baking Soda, 1 tsp. salt and 1 tbsp. cinnamon. This made a very thick batter.

Zucchini Bread 3 Mixing Teams

Next I added in the 2 c. zucchini and 1 c. walnuts. The zucchini really helped to make the batter moist and easier to mix. You don’t have to include the walnuts, I just feel they add a great texture to the soft bread.

Once everything was just incorporated, I stopped my mixer. You are basically mixing this to making sure that the zucchini and walnut bits are evenly distributed. It is important to not over mix a quick bread. Over mixing can make a quick bread like this tough or chewy. I coated the baking pans with a non-stick cooking spray. I poured the batter and used a scraper to get every last bit into 2 9 x 5-inch ceramic baking pans.

Zucchini Bread 5 Batter In Baking Pans

I ended up baking them in my electric oven for an hour and 5 minutes on the second to top rack. I started checking for doneness at 45 minutes by inserting a toothpick in the center of one loaf. When I took the loaves out, I let them cool down for 30 minutes in the loaf pans, then flipped onto my cooling rack. It took a couple of hours to cool off completely. Though we ate one loaf right away, I saved the second loaf for my cousin by wrapping it in plastic. It’s important to not wrap the bread if it isn’t completely cool yet. I’ve set a dish towel on top of a partially cooled bread and let them sit overnight when I don’t feel like waiting up for them to cool down completely. The towel will allow them to cool without collecting dust or attention from curious cats who shouldn’t even be on the kitchen counter (you know who you are). If the bread isn’t cool before it is wrapped, it’s a recipe for early mold. In between the plastic and outside of the bread, condensation will form. If you leave bread on the counter like I do, mold can form in just a couple of days. Once the bread is cooled and wrapped, it can be stored at room temperature for 3-4 days or in the refrigerator for a week.

Zucchini Bread 6 Finished Loaves

I was really happy to be able to use two products from Clabber Girl: both the baking powder and soda. They are locally made in Terre Haute, Indiana and the baking soda is a new package for us. I have the full zucchini bread recipe below. I am thinking for next year’s family reunion, I could easily use up a lot of our zucchini by making everyone mini loaves of zucchini bread. This recipe can be changed to include walnuts or other nuts, and you could easily make it a chocolate zucchini bread by adding cocoa powder. For this, I might even get out the food processor.

Ingredients:

3 c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. Clabber Girl Baking Powder

1 tsp. Clabber Girl Baking Soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. cinnamon

3 eggs

1 c. vegetable oil

2 1/4 c. sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

2 c. grated zucchini

1 c. chopped walnuts

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottoms and sides of two 8 x 4-inch loaf pans. Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla; mix well. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, mixing well. Stir in zucchini and walnuts. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Bake 45- 55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan; cool completely on wire rack.

Take care and bake well, friends!

Fruitcakes in the Kitchen: Delicious Tips for Baking with Fruit

How to make the most of the summer’s sweetest treats

peach

Nothing wakes up the senses quite like biting into a fresh peach on a hot summer day. A peach’s perfect balance of sweet and tangy delights almost all palates. Frozen or dried can be good – but we all know nothing can take the place of straight from the tree.

With fruits of all shapes and sizes ripening right before our eyes, creative cooks find all kinds of ways to incorporate these delicacies into regular meals. If you’re fortunate enough to go and pick you own, you’ll come home with so many buckets you may not think you have enough recipes.

  1. Think again! Baking with fruit can be quick and easy, especially if you remember these five helpful tips. Use cornstarch for your thickener. When you use flour, the filling turns cloudy. Cornstarch, however, thickens up just as nicely and stays clear, so your blueberries and raspberries sparkle like gems.
  2. Use a glass or dark metal pan for your crust. If you wind up with a soft crust, next time try a glass or dark metal pan. Also, it helps if your filling is chilled when you pour it in.
  3. Get higher peaks with older creamer. Notice we said older, not expired! If you want beautiful thick white tops, use heavy whipping cream that’s around three days old. To ensure it stands properly, you can even chill the bowl and mixer! Setting them in your freezer for 15 or 20 minutes should be enough to do the trick.
  4. Avoid jam consistency. If you want your blackberries to maintain their shape, be sure to get them as fresh as possible. One day off the vine is the perfect vintage. Also, be careful to avoid smashing or squashing them.
  5. Keep your fruit from sinking. Do all your blueberries sink to the bottom of your muffins? Toss them in just a tablespoon or two of flour and they should stay afloat.

Try out these tips with this decadent jumbleberry cobbler!

When you bake with fruits, you’re not only cooking up incredible flavor, but you’re also serving up vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants, fiber and water. You don’t have to stick with traditional pies and cobblers, either. With flavors ranging from sweet to tart, fruit is the perfect addition to many of recipes you cook every day.

  • Baking bread? Try this mouth-watering blueberry coconut bread. It is the perfect combination of tart and sweet. The crunch of the coconut adds an addictive texture.
  • Time for pie? Nothing excites the taste buds like sweet peaches. This peach custard pie topped with meringue is out of this world.
  • Crazy-delicious cupcake recipe? Go nuts with these dulce de leche peach cupcakes.  Topped with sweet dulce de leche and pecans, it is perfect for any occasion or celebration.