Italian Style Zucchini Bread: A Challenge

A boatload of zucchini is never a problem around here as we enjoy it so many ways. You can find one of my favorite recipes here for funfetti zucchini bread, but today we are going with an Italian spin on the loaf. It was a challenge to get it right.

Inspired and intrigued by Deb Wise’s recipe for a Tuscan Pignoli Orange Zucchini Bread on my recipes.com I immediately went to work to change it. At first glance, I loved her use of almond and semolina flours in the mix, but then I noticed 2 teaspoons of baking soda plus 1 of baking powder and a red flag went up. I hate the metallic bitterness of unreacted baking soda in quick breads and muffins and I just did not think there was enough acidity in the recipe to balance out the baking soda and allow it to do its job. I also noted an overload of oil and sugar in the ingredient list which conjured up an overly sweet and greasy loaf image. I find most quick breads don’t ever suffer from a reduction in the oil and the sugar in the recipe and in my mind it feels so much healthier.

In my first attempt, I reduced the baking soda form 2 teaspoons to 1 1/2 teaspoons plus I added 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. I reduced the sugar by 1/4 cup and the oil by 1/3 cup. I did not use the nuts (too expensive an ingredient to experiment with), but kept everything else the same. The result is the loaf pictured above. It was greasy and tasted slightly metallic. It was sweet enough, so I opted out of the icing. Did you notice it is slightly sunken in? That is the result of too much leavening. I knew it needed further refinement.

The next loaf required a dramatic decrease in baking soda (from 2 teaspoons to 1), oil (from 1 cup to 1/2 cup) and sugar (1 1/4 cups to 3/4 cup) and the addition of 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and the results were deliciously amazing. First, the aroma is super nutty and the flavor is bright with citrus and just a touch of sweetness. The texture is perfectly light without any greasy feel. Bonus points for a perfect rise without sinking. My husband described it as “fresher tasting”.

Tuscan Lemon Zucchini Bread

  • 1 cup (about 4 1/4 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (about 2 3/4 oz.) semolina flour
  • 1/2 cup (about 1 3/4 oz.) almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use avocado oil)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini *

Heat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9- x 5-inch loaf pan with baking spray. Whisk together flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl just until combined. Place eggs in a large bowl; lightly whisk. Add sugar, oil, vanilla, and lemon juice and zest; whisk until smooth. Stir in grated zucchini. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool bread in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of pan to loosen bread. Remove bread from pan, and cool completely on rack.

I am fresh out of grief lessons, but don’t want to give up on blogging. From time to time, I hope you enjoy the recipes shared here. You can see more of what I do on instagram @goodgriefcook

How Does Your Garden Grow

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This week’s walk around the garden featured a few lovely surprises like this Asiatic lily. Multiple blooms on hearty stems peppered across the backyard truly stand out. Orange is the new black for a reason and so worth the dirt under my nails.

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Aptly named “goat’s beard” this hearty shrub is a wonderful back drop to those colorful lillies. So worth my aching back.

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Low growing dianthus spreads an electric pink carpet along the border. It’s sweet fragrance is just a bonus. So worth me feeling my age.

 

A shady area allows these astilbe to thrive. These feathery flowers come in many gorgeous colors. So worth the sweat on my brow.

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I get pretty excited when the fruit and vegetables show themselves. Please local deer keep away!

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Like small jewels these French strawberries are something special. I love them for breakfast or floating in a glass of wine come evening. The best is letting my granddaughter pick them. She pops them right into her mouth. How fun is that?

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The rock garden features a bounty of succulents. Interesting shapes and colors and easy to care for “chicks and hens” are quite a contrast to the rest of the garden. They need no help from me to flourish.

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Like all good things in the garden the perennials need to restore their root systems. After a bounty of delicious asparagus I must let some stalks mature into ferns. As they replenish themselves the ferns create the most lush green screen along the fence. Those unpicked spears grow about 6 feet tall and later develop eye-popping red berries.

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Have a beautiful week. Plant some seeds. Stop and smell the roses. Tell someone you love them.

 

Garden Fresh Fig Coffee Cake

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I never dreamed that I would ever be able to grow fresh figs until this move to southeast Pennsylvania. The climate here is warmer and the growing season longer. With a little winter protection my fig trees have thrived. As grocery produce goes they are a pricey commodity, so it’s a great example of why tending a small backyard garden is worth it. Here we are on the edge of November and these fresh figs are ripening fast and furious.

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Once picked figs don’t last long. They are quite perishable. We love them sliced and caramelized in butter with goat cheese and balsamic glaze, but we can only eat so many that way. Simmering a large pot of figs with honey and orange yielded two nice jars of jam. Still so many figs, so I baked a fresh fig cake recipe that I present today.

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This is a dense fruit cake filled with toasted pecans, chopped dates, dried cranberries and the fresh figs. It’s flavored with cardamom, citrus zest and a little orange liqueur. It is a moist cake that is delicious for breakfast topped with plain Greek yogurt or can be served as an elegant after dinner dessert topped with whipped cream.

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Garden Fresh Fig Cake

1 cup dried sweetened cranberries

1/2 cup pitted dates, quartered

2 tablespoons orange liqueur or orange juice

3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups canola

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

3 eggs

1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1 cup chopped toasted pecans

 

12 ripe figs, quartered

Heat oven to 350F. Spray a coffee cake pan with no-stick baking spray. In small bowl, toss cranberries, dates and orange liqueur or juice; reserve. In medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt and cardamom; set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat sugar, oil and orange zest on high speed for 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; blend well. With mixer on low speed gradually add flour mixture blending just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in pecans and reserved dried fruit mixture. Spread half the batter evenly over bottom of pan. Evenly space half the figs on the batter. Spread remaining batter over figs. Top with remaining figs. Bake for 70 to 80 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes. Invert onto a plate and then invert again on to a cooling rack. I prefer the fig side up.

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I prefer to flip this over and serve it fig side up