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

Life Changing Choices & Scones

Aside

prize winning jam filled scones

prize winning jam filled scones

What does the Pillsbury Bake-Off and the Navy have in common? Well, it is about life changing choices. Like “nothing ventured, nothing gained” or “taking the road less travelled”. It’s taking one step forward into the unknown. That first step of change can be exciting, scary or not whatever you expected it to be.

William is stepping on the Green Giant's foot

William is stepping on the Green Giant’s foot

Anyone who enters recipe contests completely understands the notion of being bitten by the contest bug. That is what happens to me after Pillsbury names my “Glasnost Apple Pie” a finalist in 1990 (Bake-Off #34). What??? I won??? Hard to believe taking that first step with my little recipe makes me realize that some one besides those who love me like my food. Nothing would ever be the same. My very first contest experience was incredibly fabulous and the funny thing, I did not win a dime. So, it wasn’t about the prizes, but the experience.  It was life-changing as my passion for cooking turned into a lucrative hobby.

Four years later I landed a finalist spot again. This time the whole family was flying to the Del Coronado Hotel in San Diego to enjoy Bake-Off #36 festivities and the family vacation of a lifetime. Can you imagine a private party at Sea World? My kids thought I was a genius. While I prepared Middleberry Scones my husband and children were out at the beach.  Bill later tells me that William was completely captivated by some US Navy SEALS who were out in the cold Pacific practicing maneuvers. When he asked his dad to explain who these guys were and what they were doing he declared, “I am going to be one of those guys some day.” He was only 5 years old when he made that life-changing decision. He never wavered from the dream of joining the Navy.

Losing William in a tragic accident is the sudden destruction of the world I know.  Unanticipated death is so shocking and overwhelming; it is incapacitating. I did not see it coming and I am not prepared to defend myself. There are not enough coping skills in my arsenal to save me from this pain, but there is a daughter who over time digs down deep and gently pulls me up from the depths of despair. There is also an unexplained energy. It comes in the physical form of a heart, a squeeze like a bear hug and vivid dreams. And it comes at unexpected times. I call them “whoosh moments”. Psychiatrists and psychologists are quick to write that these incidences are the griever’s inability to accept the unacceptable. I say the MD’s and the PhD’s don’t know Jack or I mean Will. Some day I will explain.

William accompanied me to quite a few cook-offs. He was like a good luck charm always encouraging me to just do my best and have fun. He made me feel like a winner much like all who were ever in his presence. I am so very proud to be a Navy Corpsman mom and thankful for all the special memories of my sweet William. He was the best of the best. And to all of those who love him, too, or ever lost a child, I promise he/she is with you. Choose not to suffer. Choose to celebrate his or her life. Please share YOUR whoosh moments.

Next month 100 finalists will by vying for a 1 million dollar prize at the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off. For 1 lucky winner it will surely be a life changing experience, but maybe for the other 99 as well. In the meantime, enjoy my prize-winning Middleberry Scones with a cup of tea and celebrate all the life changing choices and whoosh moments in your life.

Middleberry Scones

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. grated orange peel

1/4 cup butter or margarine

2/3 cup half-and-half

1 egg

1/3 cup raspberry or strawberry preserves

1 tsp. sugar

Spread and Garnish:

1 (3-oz.) package cream cheese, softened

16 fresh raspberries or strawberries, if desired

1 tsp. grated orange peel, if desired

Heat oven to 425ºF. Lightly grease cookie sheet. In large bowl, combine flours, 2 Tbsp. sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and 1 tsp. orange peel; mix well. Using fork or pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In small bowl, combine half-and-half and egg; blend well. Add to flour mixture. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto well-floured surface; knead lightly 4 times. Divide in half; pat each half into 8” circle. Place 1 circle on greased cookie sheet; spread preserves to within 1” of edge. Place remaining circle over preserves; pinch edges to seal. Sprinkle top with 1 tsp. sugar. Cut into 8 wedges; do not separate. Bake 15-18 minutes or until edges are golden. Cut through scones. Serve warm with cream cheese; garnish with berries and 1 tsp. orange peel.