I don’t bake very often. This is usually for two reasons: 1) I don’t want a lot of sweet stuff around the house that I’m not about to eat on my own; and 2) baking is a lot more difficult to experiment with than cooking because it’s more of a science than cooking is. Baking actually sort of scares me–I feel like there’s a lot less room for error than with plain old cooking. Not enough of this and something won’t rise properly. Too much of that and something might fall and collapse. Most of my experiments and kitchen ideas usually come out pretty well, so the thought of baking failure–that’s more than I can usually handle!
Not that it will stop me from trying! It’s taken a while to get the jam thing down, and I’m still afraid of jelly, but why not go for some baked good experimentation as well? I’ve had success mixing rosemary and garlic, caramelized onions or sun-dried tomatoes and asiago cheese into bread dough and had success, so I’m learning that there is some room for experimentation with baking when the basics have been covered. It’s what you add on top of the basic recipe that lets you get creative–and that’s usually how I cook anyway. Let’s take this basic idea and give it a spin, add something funky (in the good way) to it to not only top it off, but take it over the top! (Thus all my unusual flavor combos…)
This recipe is a total experiment on my part, with inspiration taken from a couple different sources. The first is my mother’s sister, my Aunt Margaret. Once when my family was visiting theirs, I recall her serving a chocolate cake that was particularly good. It had a “secret” ingredient in it. “Can you guess what it is?” she asked. We were all stumped–nothing in particular stood out. “It has zucchini in it!” she proudly declared. Hmmm, zucchini–wow. The thing was you would never have known it. What a great way to keep your baked good moist and get your veggies in! I’d always loved zucchini bread, but had never heard of chocolate and zucchini together–ingenious! That’s one of the great things about zucchini–it can be a chameleon.
(For you parents out there, this is also a great way to sneak a tad more of the dreaded green vegetables into your kids’ diets, especially since there are not many kids between the ages of 5-12 who aren’t grossed out by anything that is the color green that is put in front of them!)
For the basic amounts of what I’d need to try to pull off this experiment, I consulted my trusty, yellowing copy of The Joy of Cooking. To my great surprise, this venerable cook’s standard contained no recipe for zucchini bread! How can The Joy of Cooking not have a recipe for zucchini bread?!? Shocking, but true. So, this is indeed my own concoction–I perused some of their other quick bread recipes to get an idea of how much of this (flour) and how much of that (baking powder), I should experiment with, but then sat down with my notebook and decided on the amounts that sounded about right to me. Lastly, I must thank the Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything for the idea to drain the zucchini. Thank you, Mark!
Why lime? Well, I like chocolate and lime together, and I had two limes leftover from last weekend’s green zebra tomato jam recipe. So, why not? Waste not, want not. Repurposing is a good thing! (See below for more flavor suggestions…)
Since I was totally winging it on this one, I felt like I needed to think through how I’d approach this and write down a recipe first rather than just have at it like I usually would with a cooking project. What I really needed to think about was how much zucchini, how much lime and how much cocoa. Ack! Who knew? I was definitely going to have to rely on taste for the lime and chocolate. I also had three large zucchinis on hand that I need to use, so I was hoping to use a whole one. From my perusal of JoC, it seemed that most quick bread recipes called for about a cup of whatever the fruit or vegetable add-in was (bananas, pumpkin what have you), so I figured I could probably get away with about a cup and a half without it being too much zucchini overkill–once I drained and squeezed the water out of the grated zucchini, I just a bit more than that from one large zucchini.
For the lime, I decided to start with the zest of half a lime. My favorite banana bread recipe, from JoC, calls for lemon zest and that’s one of my favorite parts of that recipe. It adds a little sumthin’ sumthin’ to the bread. Since I wanted to be able to taste lime in this, I thought half a lime would be a good place to start–I could add more after tasting the batter. I did the same for the cocoa. I started with 2 tablespoons and added and tasted from there.
I actually added the cocoa as the last ingredient as I made this because I wasn’t sure how much I’d want. I started with 2 tbsp and added from there, tasting along the way. I know some people freak out about eating batter since it has raw eggs, but this has never bothered me, and I’ve been eating batter since I was a kid. My dad always let us lick the spoon, even as my mom would yell at him, “Don’t let the kids eat the batter! It’s not good for you!” I’ve never gotten sick from it (knock wood!) despite the salmonella warnings. I also tend to buy organic, free range eggs, so those are probably better than your garden variety grocery store egg. I also reserved my zucchini water and added a bit more as I put in more cocoa so the batter wouldn’t be too thick and not moist enough. Note: save the zucchini water (or add more milk if the batter feels too thick)!
For baking time, I started at 40 minutes and tested from there with the proverbial “stick a knife or toothpick in it” test. Most of JoC‘s quick bread recipes call for a full hour in the oven, but I usually find that my banana bread is ready somewhere between 45-50 minutes at 350˚ Fahrenheit. Any more than that and the sides tend to start burning, which you don’t want! This one took approximately 55 minutes with knife tests every five minutes starting at 40 minutes.
Chocolate Lime Zucchini Bread
1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/3 c. shortening
3/4 c. organic sugar
Zest of half a lime
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c. grated zucchini, drained or squeezed of as much liquid as possible (keep liquid)
2-4 tbsp. milk
4-5 tbsp. cocoa
1) Preheat oven to 350˚ Fahrenheit. Grease loaf pan and set aside.
2) Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in small mixing bowl. Set aside.
3) In large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Add lime zest and incorporate into sugar/shortening mixture.
4) Beat eggs and add to creamed sugar mixture. Incorporate. Add zucchini to mixture and stir through. Add 2 tbsp. milk; mix together.
5) Add cocoa to flour mixture. Incorporate dry ingredients into the wet mixture in increments of 1/3, mixing in between until all of the flour mixture has been mixed into the batter.
6) Pour batter into greased loaf pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a knife or toothpick stuck in the middle of the bread comes clean.
7) Cool for 30 minutes, then serve.
• I like to mix everything by hand when I bake because I think it’s fun for some reason, but feel free to use a hand or stand mixer–knock yourself out! 😉
• This would probably taste great topped with a scoop of really good vanilla ice cream. And maybe a drizzle of really good olive oil on top. And fleur de sel!
Here are couple variations to try, as well. Leave the lime zest out for these:
– Add 1-2 tsp. cinnamon to give it a Mexican Chocolate flavor.
– Chop and toast some hazelnuts and add them–I’d say about 1/2-3/4 cup would be plenty.
– Add zest of 1/3 of an orange.
I think it actually turned out pretty well–I can absolutely taste the lime, which is what I was going for. I do wonder if a bit more cocoa is called for. Since it’s a quick bread, the texture will be a bit drier, the crumb will be a bit tighter and it won’t be quite as sweet–this ain’t a cupcake, so it won’t taste like one!
Give it a try and let me know what you think!
All recipes and photos copyright of Foie Gras and Funnel Cakes.