Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread (cake?!)

I had this big zucchini sitting on my kitchen island, staring me in the face.  For a few days, I looked at it and said, "I know, I'll get around to you."  It intimidated me a little bit, actually.  Then the call came -- yesterday, my friend Joanne asked me if I could bake something for an impromptu going-away/baby shower for her friend Erica.  I said "sure" and she said "no, you don't have enough time" and I said "of course I do."  After all it was for Erica, a lovely soon-to-be Mom who's been great to work with.  I promised scones and zucchini bread.  I searched the internet for zucchini bread recipes, and there are a gazillion, so I decided to go home and open up my baking textbook, the bible of the best (or wanna-be-the-best) bakers, Cooks Illustrated's beautiful book, Baking Illustrated.  It was a gift to myself a few years ago, and as much as I love the internet for instant recipe gratification, it's good to hold a good, heavy book in my hands, to set it on my island opened to a recipe, and even to brush crumbs off a page.  It's like Baking 101, where I can study a paragraph three or four times and really get it without having to scroll up or scroll down. 

Anyway, my point is that old-school is sometimes better, and you can learn an awful lot from a real book, and with this baking book you get lessons based on research in Cooks Illustrated's kitchens, as well as the history and tradition surrounding the recipe (right up my academic alley).  They take one recipe and refine it to perfection before they publish it.  If you ever get a chance to catch their show Cooks Country on PBS (often on Sunday afternoons) it's worth watching.  Christopher Kimball and his staff explain why recipes do and don't work, and they tape their show in a real Vermont country farm house.  There's just so much that is real and authentic with CI and all they do -- it's a refreshing change-of-pace from the glitzy cooking shows populating cable TV.

I found BI's recipe for zucchini bread, and I altered it a bit.  I added chocolate in the form of Hershey's cocoa powder, and even more with mini chocolate chips.  I also added a tiny bit (a teaspoon) of dried Valencia orange peel, just because, but it doesn't have to go in there.  I personally love a little hint of orange in my chocolate.  Once the zucchini was grated and drained, it didn't seem to be that large a component in the bread/cake.  But, it's in there and you can feel good about it!

Here's my recipe for Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread, adapted from Baking Illustrated:

makes two loaves

Grease and flour two 9x5 loaf pans 

12 tablespoons softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs (OR for low-fat version, 3 egg whites and one egg, or equivalent in egg substitute - 1 c.)
3/4 c. sour milk (2 tbsp. vinegar and milk to make 3/4 c.) or buttermilk or plain yogurt
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups zucchini, grated, mixed w/ 2 tbsp. sugar, drained in colander for 30 minutes, excess moisture squeezed out (use large holes of a box grater, or shred in food processor)

3.5 cups flour
3/4 c. baking cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
(optional:  1 tablespoon fresh orange rind, grated, or 1 teaspoon dried)

1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted for 5 minutes, dry, over lowest heat setting until fragrant. 
1 cup mini chocolate chips (Regular chocolate chips are heavier and my drop to the bottom.  If you're using them, coat in flour first and then they'll suspend in the batter better.)

Beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy.  Add oil.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Add sour milk, vanilla, and zucchini.  Mix well.

In separate bowl, combine flour with cocoa, baking powder, soda, and salt. 

Mix flour mixture into butter mixture until everything is moistened and there are no dry parts visible.  Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips.

Oven 375 degrees

Spray, or grease and flour two 9x5 loaf pans.  Line bottom of pans with parchment or waxed paper (makes it easier to remove later).

Divide batter among loaf pans and bake at 375 until cake tests done - check at 40 minutes.  Cake is done when it springs back when lightly pressed in the middle, or when toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let cool in pan for 10-15 minutes.  Turn out onto cooling rack to cool completely, and then wrap in saran wrap to keep cake moist.

Like all zucchini breads, this is made to be shared!


Photo:  by me

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    I'm a student at Skidmore College in Anne Breznau's Blogging class, and I really love your blog. Every entry is not only informational but is also brought to life with an anecdote and personal narrative. It's really great.