A Staple Fall Recipe: Zucchini Bread

zucchini bread in pan

I don’t remember when I realized that I hadn’t baked or eaten zucchini bread in quite some time. But it was within the past couple of months. After that, I wanted some. So when my mom and I visited a farm stand, I was looking for zucchini. And I found it!

Next, the search began for a recipe. The very old recipe I had didn’t seem appealing anymore. Many of the recipes in more recent cookbooks all had a chocolate focus, which I didn’t want. So I searched online and found a recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction.

It’s rare that I follow a recipe exactly. This time was no exception. When I adapted the recipe, I decided to use all brown sugar and used half the amount of oil and substituted ricotta cheese for the rest. I wanted some extra protein and that’s why I used ricotta cheese. You could also try yogurt or switch up the type of oil. I added nuts for more protein as well. You could use chocolate chips, raisins or other dried fruit. Dates or dried cranberries would be good too.

In case you haven’t used any of my recipes yet and aren’t familiar with my way of baking and cooking, I believe that recipes are merely a guide. In other words, the directions given below for how to combine the ingredients isn’t set in stone. Stir them in the order that you may prefer. This was easiest for me.

Likewise, your oven is different from mine and may run hotter or cooler, so the time needed will vary. You can also use this recipe for muffins. Based on the original recipe and my muffin baking experience, bake muffins for about 20 minutes at the same temperature.

Sally’s recipe has good bones and is perfect for adapting. For example, you could use half the amount of zucchini and use finely chopped apple for the other half or similarly wet fruit or vegetable, like pear, pumpkin or squash.

My version is below. Let me know if you try it!

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Zucchini Bread (Makes 1 loaf)

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 medium zucchini (shredded, about 1 cup)
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

INSTRUCTIONS:

Set oven to 350℉. Either grease and flour a loaf pan or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine olive oil and ricotta cheese. Stir in zucchini. Mix in vanilla extract and brown sugar. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

Add flour and combine. Do not stir too much. Stir in nuts.

Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for around 55 – 65 minutes. Test by sticking a toothpick into the center. It’s done when it comes out clean.

Let cool for about 10 minutes. Sometimes I speed cool by sticking the pan straight into the freezer or fridge on a trivet. This bread is nice served warm, so don’t cool too long.

Enjoy!

Finding Flour: Where & Why

Bread has been vital to human survival for more than 10,000 years. Flour combined with water makes a dough for cooking over a fire or baked in an oven. These simple ingredients have sustained people for a long time. That is to say, flour may subconsciously signal life. Now finding flour has become a national obsession.

Since the pandemic began, people seem to have latched onto the idea that having enough flour is essential. Even for people who never baked at home before, so it’s not particularly logical. But nevertheless, many have latched on so tightly to this idea, that there have been flour shortages in stores for months. People are baking like crazy.

In the age of COVID-19, in many ways we are literally in survival mode and behaving on instinct. There is something primal about flour. Maybe in our subconscious, we as a species know that if we have flour we can survive. Also kneading dough is soothing — like a meditation.

Over the last week especially, as police brutally killed Black people, it felt like an attack on my spirit. I’ve gasped for air and felt pain in my neck. It’s times like this that I need to find ways to stay calm. That familiar combination of flour and water brings me back to myself.

I’ve baked cinnamon bread, scones, cookies and cake. I had a decent amount of flour at home to begin with, but then started to run low and didn’t see all-purpose flour on store shelves for weeks, so I bought cake flour to tide me over.

Because I wasn’t sure how long this flour shortage would last, I decided that sourcing locally and online would be the best option and also help support local business. Thankfully I’m now well-stocked with flour.

Below is a list of New England area mills with freshly milled flour, cornmeal and more ready to ship directly to you!

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One Mighty Mill (Lynn, MA)

Ground Up Grain (Hadley, MA)

Maine Grains (Skowhegan, ME)

Gray’s Grist Mill (Westport, MA)

Plimoth Grist Mill (Plymouth, MA)

Kenyon’s Grist Mill (West Kingston, RI)

DoubleTree Signature Cookie Recipe

My quarantine baking is in full swing. I’ve also found a keeper of a chocolate chip cookie recipe. How can I express the enormity of this?

I’ve been baking since I was a little kid. My mom baked from scratch. She baked a lot. Growing up we literally had dessert every night after dinner.

I was always by her side “helping” or at the very least just licking the spoon and bowl clean. I learned so much watching her over those years. One of the things that she baked most often was chocolate chip cookies. There was nothing like getting a spoonful of raw cookie dough to tide me over until the cookies were baked. It’s still a treat that brings me back. Eventually I was able to make them myself.

Over the years, I’ve probably baked dozens of variations of chocolate chip cookie recipes. The recipes don’t  vary much. For the most part there are no surprises. At least until I saw the recipe for the DoubleTree Signature Cookie Recipe.

It’s a game changer. I’ve never had their cookies before and now I know why they’re so beloved. This is the most substantial chocolate chip cookie that I have ever baked by far. It’s delicious, gooey, solid and filling.

As an aside, because of pandemic panic buying, I hadn’t seen all-purpose flour on store shelves in weeks, so I bought cake flour and used that. I guess I need to make this recipe with regular flour as well to see if there is a difference.

Anyway, the ingredients in this recipes are different. Along with the standard ones, there is cinnamon, lemon juice, walnuts and oats. Also there’s double the normal amount of chocolate chips. But an even bigger difference is the manner of baking. Most recipes bake for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees. These cookies bake at 300 degrees for 20-23 minutes. That’s revolutionary!

I cut this cookie recipe in half and didn’t add the lemon juice, because it was such a small amount. I might try using it the next time. And there will be a next time. I think this is my new standard chocolate chip recipe.

Here is my adapted version of the recipe below. The original version is supposed to make 26 cookies. Maybe I made smaller cookies than called for, but I baked six yesterday and still have plenty of cookie dough left in the fridge. I guess the amount you get will be based on how much dough you use for each cookie.

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DoubleTree Signature Cookie Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

1 stick butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup and 2 T flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Pinch cinnamon
1 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

INSTRUCTIONS:

Put oven on 300 degrees. Take out cookie sheet.

In a medium bowl, combine butter, sugars, egg and vanilla. Stir in flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Combine. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out the dough onto the cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Keep them socially distanced! Bake for 20-23 minutes, until edges are slightly browned. Enjoy!

Holiday Recipe: Gingerbread

Gingerbread in pan fresh from the oven.

If you know me in person and see me around the holidays, you’ve probably had my homemade gingerbread.

This past week, a recent work project ended. I baked a couple of loaves and brought it in to thank the firm for the warm welcome.

This morning, I baked another loaf to bring for Thanksgiving dinner later today. Gingerbread has been my signature holiday dessert for over 20 years. At this point, it’s part of my identity. I bake gingerbread.

I first found the recipe in a magazine that my maternal grandmother gave me. It’s called Mother’s Gingerbread and is from the book  Cleora’s Kitchen. Over the years, I’ve adapted it. So it is somewhat different from the original.

It’s one of my favorite things to eat and most other people love it too. So I often give it as a gift. It’s easy to make and maybe you might like to bake it too. Here’s the recipe below.

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Gingerbread (makes 1 loaf)

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
2 eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour
1 cup hot/boiling water

INSTRUCTIONS:
Place parchment paper in loaf pan or grease pan with butter, then shake flour in pan until the pan is covered with flour. Dump out excess flour. Set oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Stir in molasses and eggs. Stir in cinnamon and ginger. Stir in baking powder and baking soda. Stir in flour. Stir in water. This should be a very liquid mixture.

Pour mixture into loaf pan. Depending upon your oven, and maybe the pan that you use, bake for 60 – 75 minutes. When the gingerbread is almost done, you should smell it. The scent is amazing! Sometimes I’ll bake it at night, so I can fall asleep to the wonderful aroma in the house.

Use a toothpick or fork, etc., to test it before removing from the oven. It should come out clean. If there is some liquid on it, then put back in the oven.

When it’s finally done, let cool for a few minutes. I usually wrap it in foil and store it in the fridge if I am keeping it. It’s great served warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

It can be frozen as well. Usually I make gingerbread to give away or bring someplace else, so I don’t refrigerate it. Just keep in foil and bring with you or package it well in order to mail. It will remain fresh and moist even in the mail for  2- 3 days. So choose your postage accordingly!

Happy Thanksgiving and all the best to you for this holiday season!

Recipe: Brown Sugar-Almond Shortbread Cookies

There hasn’t been a lot of baking on this blog. Not like I used to. But I like to document when I try something new, so I can look back and remember, “Yeah! I baked that!”

I baked these shortbread cookies as a gift, because I wanted something simple, but special. A dessert, but not too sweet.

The recipe is from the cookbook, Baking, by Dorie Greenspan. It’s one of my favorite cookbooks ever. I’ve had the book for years and have a few tried and true recipes. I’ve decided to venture out a bit more and bake some of the other recipes in the book. There are so many to choose from!

For this recipe, I didn’t have pecans, so I used almonds. I cut the recipe in half, and used ground cardamom instead of cloves.

While my cookies aren’t as pretty as the ones in the book, I think they’re still pretty cute! And the taste is wonderful! I highly recommend trying them. They’re great as a gift. To bring to a brunch or an afternoon tea. Or just for yourself. If you try the recipe, let me know what you think!

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Brown Sugar-Almond Shortbread Cookies (Makes about a dozen cookies)
(Adapted version of Brown Sugar-Pecan Shortbread Cookies, from Baking, by Dorie Greenspan)

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup flour
2 T cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
pinch of ground cardamom
1 stick (1/2 cup) softened unsalted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup ground almonds

Optional for dusting
2 T powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. crushed edible lavender

INSTRUCTIONS:

Place the butter in a medium sized bowl and microwave, just until it gets a little soft. Then add the rest of the ingredients (except the ones for dusting) and combine.

Use a rubber spatula to put the mixture in a gallon size resealable zipper storage plastic bag. Don’t seal it yet. Use your hands to shape the dough into a log, by pressing and rolling. When it seems to be the right shape, so it will slice into nice sized cookies, press the air out of the bag, seal it and put into freezer for about 45 minutes or so, until very firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a cookie sheet or two with parchment paper. Remove dough from the freezer and take out of the plastic bag. I wash plastic bags and reuse them until they break. It is Earth Day after all! Reuse and recycle!

Place the dough on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to slice into pieces. Put the pieces on the cookie sheets, then take a fork and prick each cookie twice.

Bake cookies for about 20 minutes. They should not brown.

In a small bowl, combine lavender and powdered sugar.  When you remove the cookies, sprinkle the powdered sugar lavender mixture on top while they are still hot. Let cool a bit and they’re ready to eat!