Week Fifty-One: Gift Breads
A few months ago, two of my dear friends were married in what must have been one of the all-time grandest and most fabulous weddings ever seen. How fabulous was it? Let me just say that they made llamas seem chic and soigné. Llamas, you guys. The spitting kind.
But for me, one of the biggest highlights wasn’t the picture perfect weather, the breathtaking scenery, the impeccably tended-to details, the ceremony full of friends, family, and love; no, for me, it was at the reception dinner. In the bread basket. Of course.
There we were, dozens of guests, dolled up like there was no tomorrow, having a multi-course sit-down dinner with wine pairings, in the middle of a llama farm, and all I could think about was how on Earth do I get the recipe for this zucchini bread that is blowing my mind?!
Luckily, the bride helped me track it down, and when I finally got my hands on it, it turned out to be the chef’s grandmother’s recipe. The bride and groom didn’t even know it would be served; the chef apparently decided at the last minute that the bread basket needed something sweet.
So from such an improbable source, I bring you what may very well be the Best Zucchini Bread I’ve Ever Tasted. (Yes, my dear sister, even better than our old standard.) Why exactly it’s so incredible, I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps it’s the almost gleefully unrestrained use of sugar in the batter, or perhaps it’s the use of water instead of the more typical milk or buttermilk for the liquid. Maybe it’s the generous amount of cloves, far more than I’ve ever seen in any other recipe.
But whatever the secret, it’s undeniably one of the more delicious quick breads I’ve ever made. Moist as anything, tender, full of zucchini and crunchy walnuts, it’s one of those breads that just begs you to take one more tiny slice. And you’d better listen, because if there’s anyone else around, it’ll be gone faster than you can say “llama”.
Adapted from Chef Myles Anton‘s grandmother’s recipe
Makes two 9 x 5 inch loaves
3 cups shredded zucchini (2 large or 3 medium)
2/3 cup walnuts
15 ounces (about 3 1/3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or 1/2 teaspoon pre-ground)
2 2/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil (such as canola)
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Butter two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Add a spoonful of flour to each, and shake around to coat the entire inside of each pan with flour, knocking out the excess. While the oven heats, grate the zucchini.
2. Spread the walnuts in a single layer on a sheet pan, and toast in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until fragrant, shaking the pan halfway through to ensure even browning. While still warm, chop, and set aside to cool slightly while preparing the remaining ingredients.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside
4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with half of the sugar until slightly thick, about 1 minute. Add the remaining sugar with the oil, water, and vanilla, whisking after each addition. Stir in the grated zucchini.
5. Add the dry ingredients and the walnuts, folding gently with a spatula until just combined. Some remaining streaks or small lumps of flour are okay. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared loaf pans.
6. Bake at 350º F until golden brown and each loaf feels firm when pressed gently in the middle, 60 to 70 minutes. Let cool briefly in the pan, before transferring to a wire rack to cool thoroughly.
1. This bread will keep, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for up to a week.