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

Elderberry Honeycomb Cream Pie

It’s that time of year when I look forward to getting my hands into the dirt. Seed and garden catalogs pile up on the coffee table with dog-eared pages and the outdoor thermometer is the first thing I check upon rising every morning. I long for the final frost of the season and dream of a healthy, productive garden.

A flock of red wing black birds took a break in the backyard today. It’s exciting to see the promise of spring in this way. The bluebirds are very busy making nests and it’s clear among the deer herd who will be giving birth in a couple of months. With snow still on the ground it is hard to imagine that there will be flowers blooming any time soon, but sure as the day is long, the bees will come and pollinate it all. It helps that I don’t use any chemicals in my yard. The bees and the butterflies flourish. We all benefit.

This pie is inspired by a recipe I saw in a book written by my all time favorite baker, Rose Levy Beranbaum. If I had a girl crush it would be on her. One of the first cookbooks I ever owned was her Cake Bible and I still treasure that book today. Rose’s version of this Bavarian cream pie naturally highlights honey, but I chose to change it up a bit with some blueberry elderberry preserves and elderflower syrup from Norm’s Farms. A baked cookie crust holds all the buzz worthy goodness. Isn’t it amazing what one can do with bubble wrap!

Elderberry Honeycomb Cream Pie

1 (9-inch) shortbread or graham cracker crust)

½ cup Norm’s Farms Blueberry Elderberry Preserves

4 egg yolks plus 1 egg white

1/3 cup plus ½ cup Norm’s Farms Elderflower Syrup

2 ¼ teaspoons plain gelatin

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1/8 teaspoon lemon juice

½ cup heavy cream

Edible candy bees, optional (I piped mine with melted dark chocolate)

1 (9-inch circle) bubble wrap with small size bubbles 

If not using a store-bought crust, prepare, bake and cool homemade cookie crust. Spread preserves over bottom of crust. In small saucepan, whisk egg yolks, 1/3 cup elderflower syrup, gelatin and salt. In microwave safe measure, heat milk to just a simmer. Whisking constantly, very gradually add hot milk to egg yolk mixture until fully blended. Place saucepan over medium heat. Whisking constantly bring mixture just to a simmer. Do not boil. It should be slightly thickened. Strain custard through a sieve into a small metal bowl. To speed chilling, place bowl in another bowl of ice water; set aside. Meanwhile, in another small bowl, beat egg white and lemon juice to stiff peaks. Using same beaters, in another bowl, beat heavy cream to soft peaks. Stir elderflower mixture until it is cool and thick enough to slightly mound when small amount is dropped from spoon. Fold in egg white and whipped cream. Pour into pie crust; smooth top. Press bubble wrap, bubble side down, over cream filling. Freeze at least 3 hours or as long as overnight. In small saucepan, bring remaining ½ cup of elderflower syrup to a low boil. Simmer syrup until reduced and just turns a shade darker amber color. Let cool slightly, but still fluid. Carefully remove bubble wrap from frozen pie. Drizzle syrup over pie. Place pie in refrigerator to thaw at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish as desired. Serves 8.

❤ Happy Spring ❤

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.