I have a few complaints about zucchini bread and I bet you cannot wait to hear them. I bet you were thinking “I was hoping to hear more complaining today than I usually do.” Or, “Wow, Deb is really going hard on the zucchini content this summer, isn’t she?” It’s all fair — and true. But if you, like me, couldn’t help but notice that a lot of zucchini bread recipes could be better, well, pull up a chair, you’re among friends.
The first thing that I’ve never understood about 90% of zucchini bread recipes out there — including my own earlier one — is why they make two loaves, but two squat ones. Why do we settle for this when we’d rather have one great one? Can’t we decide for our own selves when the time is right to scale it up to two? I like loaf cakes that are filled out and domed; I like craggy, crunchy tops you have to constantly swat hands away from picking off in bark-like flecks, usually failing, but who can really blame anyone.
I’ve never understood why zucchini bread doesn’t have more zucchini in it. Is it because “cake with a few disparate flecks of zucchini in it” is less intimidating? Is it because “cake with a substantial amount of vegetables inside” doesn’t rally the base? My goal was never to replace my salad quota with zucchini bread, but the presence of zucchini actually makes for a better, more tender, cake. We should embrace it.
Some recipes tell you to grate zucchini just to wring it out, which, to me, is a monstrous extra step. This style of cake is called a quickbread; I take the “quick” to heart, and I see no reason to dry out your zucchini when the moisture within it is what makes zucchini bread great. Also, every recipe that tells you to grate “one zucchini” should be cancelled. Zucchini can range from a few ounces to a couple pounds and I doubt any recipe could use both interchangeably.
I like one-bowl cakes. I don’t think anyone making zucchini bread is hoping to get all fancy with it. What if you could just mix it with an electric mixer, no wait, a whisk, no wait, a fork? I want want more fork-mixed cakes. It’s homey food; it should be hurdle-free.
Finally, every single recipe, including my earlier one, lies to you when it fails to tell you that the best time to eat zucchini bread is one day after you make it. While this is true for many cakes, for zucchini bread, the difference is so significant, it should be nonnegotiable. I also think we need to talk about how to wrap it so it’s not compromised in any way when you eat it tomorrow. I hope you’re ready for this: we’re not going to. If you wrap it, you lose the crisp top — why achieve it just to give it up? I have not found the moisture of zucchini bread to be notably compromised by keeping it unwrapped on top, especially not with this recipe. But I do leave it in the pan; this is all the protection it needs.
The result, the one you see here, the one I’ve been tweaking now for two summers and am finally happy enough to share it with you, is my zucchini bread best-in-show, is my zucchini bread mic-drop. It’s clutter-free — you can schmear chocolate or sweetened cream cheese or salted butter on top, where it has the most impact. It’s tall, so crunchy you can rap on it like a loaf of bread, and epic, with two full cups of packed zucchini inside. I hope it’s the last zucchini bread recipe you ever need.
Elsewhere: In the NYT this week, I talking about meal planning strategies for real life and they sent a photographer over to take pictures of my sous-chefs and I cooking dinner. I’m a little biased, but it was pretty cute.
One year ago: Marbled Raspberry Pound Cake
Two years ago: German Chocolate Cake + A Wedding Cake
Three years ago: Blueberry Bread and Butter Pudding
Four years ago: Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles with Cucumber
Five years ago: Three-Ingredient Summertime Salsa and Blueberry Crumb Cake
Six years ago: Banana Nutella and Salted Pistachio Popsicles
Seven years ago: Zucchini Bread Pancakes andZucchini, Tomato and Rice Gratin
Eight years ago: Corn Buttermilk and Chive Popovers
Nine years ago: Nectarine Brown Butter Buckle and Sweet and Smoky Oven Spare Ribs
Ten years ago: Peach and Creme Fraiche Pie
Eleven years ago: Asparagus with Chorizo and Croutons and Sour Cherry Slab Pie
Twelve years ago: Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torteand Garlic Mustard Glazed Skewers
Thirteen years ago: Pearl Couscous with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Salted Peanut Tart
1.5 Years Ago: Luxe Butterscotch Pudding
2.5 Years Ago: Pomegranate Grapefruit Paloma and Butterscotch Pie
3.5 Years Ago: Everyday Meatballs and Roasted Yams with Chickpeas and Yogurt
4.5 Years Ago:
Ultimate Zucchini Bread
- 2 cups (13 ounces or 370 grams) grated, packed zucchini, not wrung out, grated on the large holes of a box grater
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup (160 ml) of a neutral oil (I use safflower), olive oil, or melted unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (95 grams) packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons (25 grams) raw or turbinado sugar
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 6-cup or 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray. Place grated zucchini in a large bowl and add oil, eggs, sugars, vanilla, and salt. Use a fork to mix until combined. Sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and baking powder over surface of batter and mix until combined — and then, for extra security that the ingredients are well-dispersed, give it 10 extra stirs. Add flour and mix until just combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with the raw or turbinado sugar — don’t skimp. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick or tester inserted into the middle cake but also into the top of the cake, closer to the dome, comes out batter-free.
Let cool completely in the pan. Leave in pan, unwrapped, overnight or 24 hours, until removing (carefully, so not to ruin flaky lid) and serving in slices. Zucchini bread keeps for 4 to 5 days at room temperature. I wrap only the cut end of the cake in foil, and return it to the baking pan, leaving the top exposed so that it stays crunchy.
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