August 7, 2015

Mom's Zucchini Bread

My mom, probably like everyone else's, has made zucchini bread for as long as I can remember. Funny thing is we never grilled zucchini, never sautéed zucchini, never even threw zucchini in a casserole. No matter how much zucchini sprung from the garden, it has always been reserved exclusively for quick bread in Mom's kitchen.

Regardless of whose oven it comes from, her zucchini bread conjures up so many special summer memories: 
watching the garden's yield slowly accumulate atop the woodstove (our impromptu countertop in the summer months); returning to the church parking lot to discover that corn on the cob, recently canned sauerkraut, and (more!) summer squash had been snuck into everyone's vehicle during the Sunday service; relishing my respite from the pressures of school and enjoying the freedom to be myself in the familiarity of Mom's company. It's those memories that are so vividly entangled with my summers growing up and incidentally with Mom's zucchini bread.

Even apart from fond recollection, I can honestly say that her recipe merits keeping. Not a stickler for instructions, Mom is simultaneously experienced and innovative in the kitchen. Her zucchini bread is case in point. She had always made her loaves with the perfect spice trifecta--one part cinnamon to half part nutmeg to a quarter part cloves--when all of a sudden one summer she omitted the spices and threw in chocolate chips instead. Now, I realize that chocolate and zucchini is old hat to home cooks nowadays, but back in the '90s out in the sticks of the Southern Tier, I don't remember any of my friends' moms mixing zucchini and chocolate. I couldn't tell you what possessed her to do so, but from that moment on it became as much a part of our summers as snapping green beans and canning up tomatoes. 

After decades of baking up her chocolate chip variety, a few summers ago she decided to add orange zest. Mom loves chocolate and orange together, but I can only guess as to what in particular inspired her to apply it to zucchini bread. A recently aired cooking show? A new issue of her favorite magazine? A grocery store spotting of a Terry's Chocolate Orange? Whatever the source of inspiration, her newest variety may very well be my favorite. The zest brightens up the color and flavor of the entire loaf and is just heavenly paired with those melty chocolate chips.  If she doesn't first offer to thaw a loaf then I quickly beg her to do so every time I'm home regardless of the season. This summer while thinking of my memories in Mom's kitchen, I began adding orange to my own chocolate chip loaves. Maybe someday my own little one will reminisce about his mommy grating zucchini, zesting orange, and entangling herself in his lazy summer memories.

I'm a bit embarrassed to be posting about zucchini late in the season when others have long since moved on to peaches, tomatoes, corn, and other summer offerings. While I may be behind in recording the details, believe you me that loaves of this summer's zucchini bread have been baked and tucked aside in my freezer for well over a month now. Once thawed, generously sliced and grilled with butter, I'll profit from summer's bounty year-round. 

Here's to summer, to special memories, and to my mom.

Mom's Zucchini Bread

I first shared this recipe on FoodZaar (now but have added details to the process and have broken down the three variations. The recipe yields 2 loaves but could alternatively be used for one Bundt pan or 4 mini loaf pans.

   3 eggs
   2 cups sugar
3/4 cup oil
   2 teaspoons vanilla
   1 teaspoon baking soda
   1 teaspoon baking powder
   3 cups flour
   2 cups grated zucchini (about one medium 8 oz.)
Varieties for seasonings and stir-ins (see below)

Preheat oven to 375˚. (If your oven tends to burn hot, drop to 350˚.)

Grease two 8-1/2" x 4-1/2" loaf pans; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix eggs and sugar until incorporated. Gently fold in oil and vanilla. Add baking soda, baking powder, spices (if using), and 1 c. flour; stir gently and add remaining flour, one cup at a time, until dough comes together. (The mixture will be likely be dry at this point and may resemble a cookie dough.) Stir in grated zucchini and orange zest (if using) until batter is moist and zucchini is evenly incorporated throughout. Fold in chocolate chips and/or nuts, if using.

Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake at 375˚ for 60 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in middle comes out clean, rotating pans halfway through baking time. (Bundt pan may require 5-10 minutes longer. If using mini loaf pans, only bake 40-45 minutes, using wooden pick as normal to test for doneness.) Transfer to wire rack and let cool 30 minutes before removing from pan and cooling completely. Serve sliced as is or butter and grill both sides of each slice. Yield: 2 loaves.

For spiced zucchini bread: Add 2 t. cinnamon, 1/2 t. nutmeg, and 1/4 t. cloves with dry ingredients; could additionally fold in 3/4 c. chopped walnuts to prepared batter, if desired.

For chocolate chip zucchini bread: Fold in 1 c. semisweet chocolate chips to prepared batter.

For orange chocolate chip zucchini bread: Add 1 c. semisweet chocolate chips and zest from 1 orange to prepared batter.

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