Every time I make this bread, it’s scent carries me away, down the lane towards Parkway Drive where our little brick house sits. I float inside, on a cinnamon carpet ride, through the foyer and past the cozy dinette. I see my mother standing tall over her kitchen counter covered in loaves of every size. I’ll watch her wrap a few of them delicately in plastic, with precision and love, until she offers me a slice we can share. Tomorrow my sister and I will take a parcel of momma’s zucchini bread to each of our school teachers and she’ll hand deliver the rest to co-workers, neighbors, friends and family members. We will be left with our single loaf, which is definitely the largest of the batch, but seemingly not enough to my big eyes still cherishing the image of a counter plentifully bestrewn. To satiate perfume induced adolescent hunger is no small feat; somehow my mother managed with poise and generosity.
“It is very hard for people who have passed the age of, say, fifty to remember with any charity the hunger of their own puberty and adolescence when they are dealing with the young human animals who may be frolicking about them. Too often I have seen good people helpless with exasperation and real anger upon finding in the morning that cupboards and iceboxes have been stripped of their supplies by two or three youths- or even one- who apparently could have eaten four times their planned share at the dinner table the night before. Such avidity is revolting, once past. But I can recall its intensity still; I am not yet too far from it to understand its ferocious demands when I see a fifteen-year-old boy wince and whiten at the prospect of waiting politely a few more hours for food, when his guts are howling for meat-bread-candy-fruit-cheese-milkmilkmilk-ANYTHING IN THE WORLD TO EAT.” – M.F.K. Fisher
I want to share the recipe for my all time favorite quick bread. It’s not a recipe I’ve written myself, but a gift my mother received from a dear friend and co-worker some years ago. Now that I don’t live in the same city as my momma, I have to make it myself in order to satisfy many cravings. I’ve been dreaming up all kinds of variations to play with one day, so this past mother’s day I made a cake version, for the first time, to serve at a celebratory brunch. Mom cut the first slice, revealing a raw center. Oops. Embarrassment. Dismay. Choice words flew off my tongue. She swiftly, sweetly comforted me and encouraged me to try it again, because she’s always great like that. It took me awhile, but I did try again, and the result was a fully cooked, light, delicate, bouncy crumb! I decided to put the icing on the cake: sea salted honey swiss meringue buttercream.
Zucchini bread is sweet, vegetal, and savory. It’s pretty easy to make and you can bake it as loaves, cakes, cupcakes or really any shape you like. Its great without icing too, just the bread, or with a small pat of butter and a cup of tea. I plan to keep remaking this recipe forever because I love it so much, and I will always share with you my favorite variations. I encourage you to try making it yourself this summer, as zucchini is in season. Please let me know how ya like it and what kinds of tempting variations you come up with. Whisk on, loves.
“They had forgotten about being hungry, being young, being…” – M.F.K. Fisher
For the quick bread:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups zucchini
1 tablespoon vanilla
For the buttercream icing:
4 large egg whites
2/3 cups sugar
2 and 2/3 sticks softened unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 4″ and a 6″ cake pan with parchment paper and grease the sides of the pans. Also line and grease a loaf pan. Alternatively you can use 2 large loaf pans, if you do not wish to make a two cakes and a single loaf.
Slice your whole zuchinni into large pieces and place in a food processor or blender. Blend until you have a smooth purée. You could leave it a bit chunkier too, if that’s what you prefer. You can also blend the zuchinni in batches if your blender or food processor or small or not very powerful.
Sift all of the dry ingredients, except sugar, together into a medium sized bowl.
Whisk the oil and sugar together in a separate large bowl. Beat the eggs into the oil/sugar mix, one at a time. Next, whisk in the zucchini until evenly distributed. Add the vanilla extract. Whisk in the dry ingredients until homogeneous.
Fill your baking pans each about 2/3 full, distribute the batter as you see fit. Place all of your pans on the middle rack of your oven. Smaller pans normally bake an hour long. The larger up to 1 hour 15 minutes. The best way to check for doneness is to stick a knife in the middle until it comes out clean. Editing note: (Christian insists on using a digital thermometer, but he doesn’t know the temp, nor do I care to do so).
Clean the bowl for your stand mixer to make the buttercream. Place egg whites and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water to make a bain-marie and whisk until all of the sugar granules are dissolved. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Begin whisking on low speed, gradually increasing the speed to high in order to form stiff peaks. Turn down to medium speed and throw bits of soft butter at a steady pace into your meringue. Once all of the butter is in the bowl, add the honey and salt and turn up the speed to high to continue whisking until everything is completely incorporated. If your mixture breaks continue whisking and it should come back together. If after some time, a couple of minutes perhaps, the mixture is still broken, set your bowl over the bain-marie and whisk by hand for a few seconds. That should do the trick. Switch to the paddle attachment for the last 30 seconds to one minute of mixing and stir on low speed to remove air bubbles.
Ice your cake, in whatever fashion you’d like, immediately or store the buttercream in the refrigerator. If your buttercream becomes very hard in the refrigerator and you are unable to spread it on your cake, just set it out on the counter for a half hour and whisk it again by hand or with your stand mixer until soft and homogeneous. At this point you could set it over a bain-marie for a moment too. Serve. Eat. Enjoy.
Prep time: 45 minutes
Bake time: 1 hour – 1 hour 15 minutes
Total time: 2 hours + decoration extras