Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's Bread, I think.

So I had this list of goodies to bake and cook this month, and on that list was a bread I called "fruit or veggie bread," meaning, some kind of healthy snack I could make in quantity. Because I sometimes have a hard time with expectations, the bread I ended up baking deviated slightly from my original idea. In fact, it is probably significant evidence of my psychological imbalance or manipulation or denial, because, apart from the whole wheat pastry flour, it is not really that healthy. If I didn't tell you there was a vegetable in it, you'd probably never guess. And furthermore, the recipe I used called it cake, not bread.

So at first I wasn't going to share it with you because I've shared enough cake. I've shared enough chocolate cake. But then, while I was baking it, and while I was serving it, I kept reiterating that it was zucchini bread, not cake. Not dessert. Not a sweet for after dinner, but a revamped veggie bread for tea, or breakfast, or maybe a midnight snack.

I finally realized I was having denial issues when my father-in-law said something about it in the context of dessert. I was in mid-sentence, explaining to him gently that he was expecting the wrong baked good, when I remembered the original recipe was for cake. Oh, I thought. Oh no, I reflected. This is a serious problem.

Then, because I am a poet type, an almost-philosopher-but-more-of-a-navel-gazer-and-daydreamer type, I have pondered this dichotomy for the last four days, finding the meaning in it, searching for the symbolism that infuses every other shaking leaf, awkward encounter, and baking mishap. It wasn't only the debate in my mind of bread or cake, there was also that nagging problem of the cake having so many ingredients I couldn't really taste. The zucchini, for example, and the coffee. And the elusive spice that I think adds flavor interest to the chocolate without really disturbing its clarity. These qualities bothered me!

I pondered until yesterday, when I realized maybe all this concern about the nature and identity of the bread was actually a little too odd to let overcome my everyday life. Maybe, just maybe the fact that I had eaten most of the cake (er, I mean bread) myself when no one was home meant that I should probably just tell you about it. Because it is zucchini season. Because I liked it so much. Because it is just a recipe, and I hope to spend my weekend reflecting on more significant ponderables.

Before I give you the recipe though, let me tell you that after all that reflecting, I still am at odds with this recipe. If shape means anything, baked in a bread pan it should be bread. But there are some strange people out there who bake cakes in bread pans. If the presence of buttercream means cake, there is still an issue, because I personally recommend smearing unsalted butter over a piece. I am usually a devoted American-style salted butter lover which I use to spread on all things savory or sweet, but this bread for some reason does not benefit from such treatment. I tried some unsalted butter on one piece by accident and, I tell you, it was perfection. The photo below is my revision to the above photo. I took a bite of the bread without remembering how good it was with the butter. Then I had to take a second picture, to lead by example.

So there you have it. Bread drama. For it is bread, really. I think.

Chocolate-Zucchini Bread adapted from Clotilde's Chocolate and Zucchini Cake

Bread or not, this food is rich and deserves respect. Treat it to a nice cup of tea or coffee, or my beloved's favorite: a tall, cold glass of whole, cream-at-the-top milk.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 scant cup muscavado sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee (or 1 teaspoon crystals)
3 large eggs
2 cups zucchini, grated
1 cup chocolate chips (or chocolate bar chunks!)
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line and butter a bread pan with parchment paper.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add coffee, vanilla, and eggs, beating well after each addition.

In a large mixing bowl, combine zucchini, chocolate chips, and walnuts with about a third of the flour mixture, making sure there are no clumps.

Add the rest of the flour mixture to the egg batter. Mix until just combined; the batter will be thick.

Fold the zucchini mixture into the batter, and blend without overmixing. Pour into prepared bread pan and smooth the surface.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and pop out the bread. Cool right side up. You can cut the bread still slightly warm, but still hot will mean crumble city. I recommend second day (or third or fourth!) serving. Enjoy!


  1. Sometimes baked goods have an identity crisis, and yet they are still lovely, as this one appears to be. Your blog is a delight -- please keep at it; I look forward to your posts.

  2. i really would like to get together with you and cook. me you and susan need some sort of fabulous retreat in the next few years.

  3. Anonymous, thank you. I will.

    And Cosy, that sounds delightful. I am already looking forward to it.

  4. Yum yum yum; so many of my favorites in this bread: coffee, cocoa and chocolate chips. This looks AMAZING!! Thanks, Amanda.