Sunday, June 19, 2011

Zucchini Cake... I mean, um.. Bread

We've been getting a lot of summer squash and zucchini in our CSA that we joined this summer.  I have to find SOMETHING to do with it, since that IS the purpose of a CSA (and honestly, this blog, to be fair) to be able to use fresh, local, in season foods in a way that's tolerable.  Unfortunately, squash and zucchini are up there with seafood on the list of Foods I Hate.  I just can't get behind them.  I mean, I like it more than shrimp, in that if someone serves me squash or zucchini, I can usually gag it down or at least hide it well enough in the other food that I don't want to immediately barf.  So what to do?  Well, I did lightly cook and puree some of it and freeze it to put into spaghetti sauce later. And  I did use a whole (small) summer squash in my chili this week (grate it, squeeze a little water out, saute before cooking beef.  We didn't even know it was there, really.)   I have, previously, prepared it lightly grilled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then it was tolerable.  But, being as pregnant as I am, by the time dinner rolls around I'm not interested in doing anything other than kicking up my feet and eating (so, no grilling happening here lately, my friends).

One way to do something SUPER simple, easy and in the morning is zucchini bread.  So I turned to my resident expert in zucchini bread, my comrade in baking, L.N.  She has given me more than one fantastic recipe to try, and she has made the heck out of Zucchini Bread, as her family had a squash bonanza last year in their garden.  She actually converted me to the world of Zucchini Bread, as, I'm ashamed to say, I generally had refused to try it on the basis that it contained zucchini.

Zucchini Bread.  Ok, who am I kidding??  This stuff should be called Zucchini Cake.  In fact, in muffin form it would be fantastic with a little cream cheese icing on the top-- but lately I just don't even have the energy for that.  Its really a heavy cake with a bunch of zucchini and squash thrown in to make me feel better about feeding it to my 20 month old for breakfast in the morning.  He LOVES this stuff, by the way.  Asks for the muffins by name these days.  Is there anything cuter than a slightly-less-than 2 year old, pointing at the top of the fridge saying "Nuppins, mama, peas?  Nuppins?"  Its hard to resist.  And I assuage my guilt knowing he's getting squash for breakfast.

I have made this four times in the last two weeks, and this is the variation I landed on.  Normally, I wouldn't change a thing if the recipe came from L.N., but for one reason or another, mine never came out quite as delicious as hers.  (Probably because baking is more of an exact science than cooking, so where you make it, the altitude, the humidity, the exact weight of the flour etc, matters.)  So I tweaked it, and this is the recipe my munchkin likes the best.  Plus, its got the most squash, so we can use up what we have with the added bonus of feeling better about eating cake for breakfast (if you were ever inclined to feel guilty about that, which I'm generally not).

Plus, its easy to make, and is a nice thing to do in the morning, before it gets hot, both outside your house and in.  I also make one pan of muffins and one loaf pan (mostly because I only have one loaf pan currently, and didn't want to spend an extra hour with the oven on.)  We freeze the loaf for after Baby #2 arrives (something else to eat at midnight!), and eat the muffins, or give them away to friends and neighbors.  Yum yum.

Zucchini Bread-- Cake-- Whatever.

3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt (full fat makes it better!)
3 tsp vanilla
2 cups white sugar
3 small zucchini/summer squash, grated and squeezed (it comes to about 3 cups-- a little more or less is ok)
1 small can or1/2 large can crushed pineapple, well-drained
2 cups white flour
1 cup oat flour
1/4 cup flax seed meal (optional)
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preparation Instructions
Preheat oven to 350.  Mix eggs, oil, sour cream/yogurt, vanilla, sugar, zucchini, and pineapple.  Combine dry ingredients and add to wet.  Mix well.

For two loaves:
Grease two loaf pans well, then dust pans with sugar (it makes it come out of the pan easier after baking).  Divide evenly into two pans, bake for 10 min at 350 degrees then turn oven down to 325, and bake for another 50 min.  Remove from pans to cool on a wire rack.

For One Loaf and one set of muffins:
Grease and dust one loaf pan as above.  Line muffin tin with liners (don't try to do the muffins the same way as the loaf-- they end up falling apart!).  Use 1/4 cup measuring cup to fill muffin tins-- they'll rise a little, but not a lot, so don't worry about being too full, as long as they stay in the liners.  Pour the remaining batter into the loaf pan.  Bake at 350 for 8 min, then turn oven down to 325, and continue baking for 20-22 min.  The muffins are done when a toothpick comes out clean.  Bake remaining loaf for 25-30 min.  Remove immediately to cool on wire rack.

**Note-- you don't HAVE to set the oven to 350-- you can do it at 325 the whole time.  But, as my mom, who was in the catering business in a previous life, told me-- anything with baking powder will get a better rise (or crown) on it if you put it in a slightly hotter oven at first.  It makes everything rise more quickly.  Then turn down to normal baking temp for remainder of time.  Neat trick, huh?