We’re at the end of summer squash season, but I couldn’t help but snap up a big bag of beautiful yellow and green zucchini at the market yesterday with the thought of making a big loaf of light, superspiced zucchini bread.
Anyone who’s ever planted zucchini knows that it likes to grow, grow, and grow some more, until you have so much zucchini that you can’t give it all away. One of my favorite zucchini stories is from my friend Victoria, who told me that you have to be careful in some parts of Canada during peak zucchini season: if you happen to leave your car unlocked, it’s not unusual to find a box of zucchini on the back seat!
Zucchini bread is the classic answer to that problem, since it typically takes anywhere from two to five cups of shredded zukes for a loaf. I like some zucchini breads, but I find most of them to be very heavy, so I’ve been trying to create a lighter version that’s not as sweet as the usual ones, and maximally jazzed up with some Indian-inspired spices.
I think I finally hit it. It’s made in a cast-iron pan with LOTS of grated zukes (six cups) and a combo of turmeric, cardamom, ginger, and ancho. It’s so light it almost floats! And it has a nice tang, with a great range of colors. It’s especially good toasted, with a hot cup of chai.
As most of you reading this know, I don’t normally provide full recipes, in the belief that it’s much more useful to think about the procedure and thoughts that go into making good food than a simple instruction sheet with exact measurements. But baking, of course, is different: it’s pretty much impossible to say “baking soda, to taste,” for example. So here it is, in full cookbook style glory. Hope you like it!
- 6 cups grated zucchini ( a food processor is a nice tool to accomplish this, but a sturdy cheese grater works well too), plus some kosher salt
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
- 3 tablespoons powdered ginger
- 1 teaspoon ancho powder
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup cane sugar or light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
- ½ cup (1 stick) melted butter
1. Place a large, well-seasoned 3-quart pan, ideally made of cast-iron, with high sides (aka a “chicken fryer”), or earthenware/claypot into the oven and preheat to 350.
2. Spread the grated zukes on a baking sheet, salt them liberally with kosher salt, and set aside for about 10 minutes while you do the next steps.
3. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, turmeric, ginger, ancho, cardamom, and salt, and mix. Set aside.
4. In a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, beat the eggs on high speed for about a minute (you can also use a stand mixer, if you prefer), and add the sugar. Beat thoroughly for another 30 seconds or so. Add the vanilla, and beat a little more. Add the butter and beat still more, for another 20 seconds.
5. Gather the salted zukes into a ball and squeeze as much water as you can out of them. Really get lots of moisture out – the more, the better.
6. Add the zukes to the eggs and mix gently with a rubber spatula. Add the flour mixture to thoroughly incorporate, but don’t overmix. Spoon into the pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove and let cool for a bit on a rack.