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

Dog & Garden Therapy

try some chocolate mint in your next cake or bread

try some chocolate mint in your next cake or bread

Today doesn’t particularly feel like summer. With leaves falling and temperatures dropping its clear warm days are about to come to a raging halt. The wishful thought of an endless summer brings me into the garden where vegetables continue to hang on. The jalapeno peppers are losing their camouflage as they ripen from green to red and the haricot vert cling to their stems as they lengthen. Fall favorites like butternut squash are ripe for the picking. Their skin has darkened and now ready to be trimmed away in preparation for roasting.

butternut squash ready for roasting

butternut squash ready for roasting

My dog, Deacon, follows me and takes a roll in the oregano. There is something about the herby fragrance that brings pizza and Greek baked chicken to mind. Hmmm, either one would be great for dinner tonight, but my attention quickly turns to one overgrown zucchini. I can’t fight it any longer.

nothing like the love of a great pet

nothing like the love of a great pet

Back inside I sit down to type. I can’t help but notice that Deacon is at my feet. I pause and am reminded that every time I sit and write this blog she is at my feet. Dogs sense things. Whether it’s my body language or some grieving scent she knows when to provide comfort. It’s clear why all dogs go to heaven.

slice of heaven come winter

slice of heaven come winter

If you are tired of eating zucchini go ahead and freeze this cake to be enjoyed in a month or two on a crisp fall day with your favorite cup of tea. You will be glad you did.

Endless Summer Zucchini Sweet Bread

2 cups all purpose flour

1-cup white whole-wheat flour

1-teaspoon baking soda

1-teaspoon fine sea salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

3 teaspoons cinnamon

2 tablespoons ground flax seed meal

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 2/3 cup sugar

¾ cup vegetable oil

1 lemon, grated zest plus 1 tablespoon juice

1-teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chocolate mint or spearmint

2 cups packed shredded zucchini *

1 cup chopped walnuts

Powdered sugar

Heat oven 350F. Spray a coffeecake pan or Bundt pan (or any pan you like that has at least a 10-cup capacity or 2 small loaf pans) with no-stick cooking baking spray. In bowl, sift flours, baking soda, salt, baking powder and cinnamon; stir in flax seed meal and set aside. In large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla and mint. Add dry ingredients, stirring with a spoon until dry ingredients are moistened. The mixture will be very thick. Add zucchini and mix very well to loosen up the batter. Stir in nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 5o to 60 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes before inverting onto rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

*Note: I grate my zucchini on the large cutters of a box grater and squeeze out some of the excess moisture with paper towels.

As always I recommend King Arthur Flour, as it is consistently the best.

I love my Grandog

I love my Grandog, too! So darn cute.

Grief & Treats From Mother Nature

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garden goodness

Good grief and nature go together like basil and tomatoes. There is no escaping it. As much as I thought I could take a break from grief there is so much about Mother Nature that keeps it right on the edge of my mind and in my heart. William was such an outdoorsman. As a kid, he loved everything about playing in the woods. His passions included hunting, fishing or just being with Mother Nature. Fond memories include playing eye-spy searching out critters hiding in the brush. He was happy.

in the Adirondaks: photo courtesy of the Van Sant family

Our new backyard (we have lived here 2 years now) brings William into my heart nearly every day. This week there are dancing blue birds, red tailed hawks, overhead, teaching their babies to fly and just this morning 4 young bucks butting heads—the latter brings an automatic, “Good Morning, William” from my lips. It makes me happy.

my yard: photo by Carol Walsh

my yard: photo by Carol Walsh

As always I am thankful to have these moments with William and to live in such a beautiful place. I am also thankful that the deer have kept their distance from my garden and that Mother Nature has provided us with an abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables for me to play with in the kitchen.

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Take the zucchini (please take some) for instance. I only planted 2 seeds and I have more than I know what to do with. It’s been grilled, roasted, stuffed and pancaked, but my favorite new recipe are these little cakes. Enjoy!

Yucatan Squash Cakes

  • Servings: 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes
  • Print

3 cups white whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur brand)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch cayenne pepper, optional

1/2 cup cocoa powder

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup canola oil

¾ cup applesauce

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

3 cups shredded zucchini, lightly tamp it down into the cup

Preheat oven 350F. Lightly grease or line 2 ½ dozen muffin cups with paper liners. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cocoa powder into a large bowl, then whisk until blended and set aside. 

 In mixing bowl, beat eggs on high speed with an electric mixer for 2−3 minutes gradually adding the sugar. Beat until mixture is pale yellow, thick and creamy. Add oil, applesauce and melted butter; beat until well mixed. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and fold gently by hand until dry ingredients are completely moistened and mixed. Stir in zucchini. Using a standard ice cream scoop, fill muffin cups about 2/3 full. 
Bake 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in cupcake comes out clean. Cool. Dust with powdered sugar or add a chocolate glaze or frosting, if desired, but really not needed.