My sister and I stumbled upon this recipe one Saturday afternoon when, empty hours stretching out ahead, the baking bug took hold of us. We found it in one of the identical copies of a cookbook full of Bluegrass State specialties, gifted to each of us by our Old Kentucky Grandparents. (Incidentally, it’s an excellent book if you have some personal connection to that region; otherwise, you might just wonder what all the fuss is over a Hot Brown.)
Perhaps it was a remnant of Summer’s glut of zucchini that spurred us on, or maybe it was one of those gleefully fortuitous circumstances when all the necessary ingredients magially coalesce in the pantry, but we both deemed it worth our efforts to try out.
One of the things that caught our eyes was the use, in a grandmother-approved cookbook, of whole wheat flour, wheat germ, and orange zest. Now, I’m not sure how your grandmothers cook; but let’s just say that if those items exist in either of my grandmother’s kitchens, they’re very well hidden.
Since that lucky afternoon, this recipe has since become a beloved part of both my sister’s and my culinary repertoires, referred to reverently and obscurely with the name “That Zucchini Bread”. Between the two of us, further description is rarely necessary. These muffins are a bit more virtuous than the typically rich variety, but they certainly don’t taste it. They turn out tender and incredibly moist, scented tantalizingly with nutmeg and orange.
The flavor is so well-balanced, neither over- nor under-sugared, not oily or dry, not overwhelmed by spices or bland; it’s the proverbial just right. I imagine this recipe would work just as well with any sort of summer squash, or even carrot, but I think it would take an earth-shattering turn of events to make me forsake the specified zucchini. The mild flavor is rather obscured, if I’m honest; and it may be only my mind inserting flavor where I can only see lively green flecks of the skin in the bread, but I swear I can tell it’s there, vibrant and fresh.
Adapted from Pride Of Kentucky: Great Recipes With Food, Farm, and Family Traditions
Makes 21 muffins (or two 8 x 4 inch loaves)
6 ounces (1 1/3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
4½ ounces (1 cup) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons pre-ground nutmeg (or 3/4 teaspoon if freshly ground)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest (from 1 orange)
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups finely shredded zucchini (about 2 medium)
1. Preheat oven to 400º F. Grease 21 standard-sized muffin cups. (See note 1 below if baking in loaves.)
2. Whisk together the flours, wheat germ, salt, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cloves, and orange zest. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together with the sugar until smooth. Add the applesauce, oil, and vanilla, and whisk until blended together. Stir in the zucchini. Add the dry ingredients, and gently stir together until just blended.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups (or divide evenly between two greased loaf pans). To any empty cups in your muffin tin, add a tablespoon or two of water, to prevent the pans from overheating, and to provide additional moisture while baking.
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned and fully cooked (a skewer should come out clean when inserted into the center of a muffin). Remove from the pan, and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.
1. If baking in loaves, preheat oven to 350º F. Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until done.