~ Dehydrated Pie Cherry & Pistachio Zucchini Bread~
You show me your recipe for zucchini bread and I'll show you mine. Everyone who has ever planted a zucchini seed has a recipe for zucchini bread -- every last zucchini-growing one of us. This is my homegrown version and I only make it once or twice, at this time, each year. Why? 'Tis the end of the sour cherry season and the beginning of the zucchini season. While it's common to find dried fruits and nuts added to zucchini bread, I happen to think mine, made with my own dried sour cherries, plus toasted pistachios, is is one uniquely tasty combination!
Personally, I prefer zucchini that are picked when small and tender, and, I like it served in an identifiable manner. Plain and simple: I am a zucchini snob. That said, renegade zucchini, super-sized ones, are almost impossible to avoid -- they increase in size by the hour. It's these monster-size zucchini I grate and use when I'm trying to sneak a vegetable into my family's diet without them knowing it (zucchini bread, zucchini cake, zucchini muffins, zucchini fritters, zucchini pancakes, zucchini waffles, etc.).
A bit about zucchini/corgette: In the big picture, all squash fall into two categories: Winter or Summer. Zucchini (both green and yellow) are Summer squash, they are a member of the Italian marrow squash family, and, were brought to the USA by Italian immigrants in the 1920's. The most common zucchini is a dark green, cylindrical Summer squash which is best harvested around 8" in length, while the seeds are still soft and immature.
A small, "baby zucchini", with the edible flower/blossom attached, designates a truly fresh, immature fruit. Baby zucchini are a delicacy and are sought by many for their sweet flavor.
Aside from color, its hybrid relative, the golden yellow-orange zucchini, is identical to green zucchini (with yellow zucchini being slightly-sweeter but not enough for me to prefer one over the other). While yellow zucchini are indeed a type of yellow squash, correctly labeled they are still: zucchini. They remain cylindrical in shape, do not taper at one end and get bulbous at the other, and/or have crook necks.
Today's big picture: all ready for my zucchini bread!
A bit about my recipe: When it comes to zucchini bread, I was a very late bloomer. Neither my grandmother nor my mother made it, so, I have no top-secret family recipe to share. The first time I tasted zucchini bread the year was 1980 and I was 30 years old. Our new neighbors, two doors away, were a retired couple, Don and Mary Barrett. That Summer, Mary invited me to come to her house for coffee and chit-chat. The warm 'quick bread' she served was moist and delicious. I was astonished to find out it was the bland, watery zucchini that gave the bread its melt-in-your mouth texture (similar to what carrots do to carrot cake). A few hours later, I arrived home with a loaf of bread and her recipe, which, over the years, evolved into my own recipe.
Most zucchini bread recipes fall into the "quick bread" category.
A bit about quick bread: "Quick bread" is an American term that refers to bread that is quick to make because it doesn't require kneading or rising time. It originated during the American civil war, when the demand for food and bread was high. Innovative cooks began rapidly producing bread and baked goods that were leavened with baking soda rather than yeast. Nowadays, the leavening agent is predominately baking powder, or, a combination of baking powder and baking soda. In the case of baking powder, it is called "double acting" because the rising process starts the moment it makes contact with the liquids, and, gives a second burst of rising power when the bread enters the hot oven.
Typically, quick breads contain eggs, flour, salt and fat (butter, margarine, shortening or oil) and leavening. That said, they can be sweet or savory and contain sugar, fruits, fruit puree, vegetables, vegetable puree and various liquids (milk, buttermilk, fruit juice or stock).
The wet and dry ingredients are always mixed separately, in two different bowls, quickly stirred together (without over-mixing) to form a thick batter, then baked. Biscuits, cornbread, muffins, pancakes, scones, soda bread and waffles all fall into the quick-bread category too!
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the wet ingredients:
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (Mary used pure vanilla extract)
3/4 cup salted butter, melted and cooled (1 1/2 sticks)
3-4 cups shredded green or yellow zucchini, or a combination of both (Mary used green), from about 1 1/2 pounds of zucchini
For the add-ins:
1 cup dehydrated (dried) sour (pie) cherries, coarsely chopped (Mary used raisins) (Note: If you have fresh cherries, and, if you own a dehydrator, click on the Related Article link below ~ Culinary Jewels: Dehydrated Sour "Pie" Cherries ~ to learn how I do it.)
1 cup shelled pistachios, lightly-toasted and coarsely-chopped (Mary used walnuts)
no-stick cooking spray, for preparing loaf pans
~ Step 1. In a medium bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Place pistachios in a baking pan and toast in 350 degree oven 8-10 minutes, stopping to toss with a spoon every 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven, set aside to cool, then chop. Chop cherries as directed then melt the butter. Set aside.
~Step 2. Trim the stem ends from the zucchini, but do not peel it. Drape a flour-sack-type towel over a colander. Using a hand-held box grater, grate the zucchini, placing all of it in the towel as you work. When finished grating, gather the towel up around the zucchini, twist, and, gently but firmly squeeze to remove excess moisture from zucchini. Continue turning and squeezing until almost no moisture remains -- when the towel is unwrapped, if the zucchini will stay in a ball, you have properly squeezed the moisture from it. You will have 3-4 cups grated zucchini.
~Step 3. In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla bean paste. While whisking vigorously, in a thin stream drizzle in and thoroughly incorporate the melted butter. When you stop no butter should be laying on top of liquid. Fold in the shredded zucchini.
~Step 4. Put down the whisk and switch to a rubber spatula. In two increments, begin incorporating the flour mixture, folding it just until a thick batter forms. Fold in the cherries, followed by the pistachios.
~ Step 5. Spoon and divide the batter equally between two 8" x 4" loaf pans that have been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray.
Note: I always like to weigh the filled pans on a kitchen scale to insure batter is divided equally.
~ Step 6. Bake both loaves at once, on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Loaves will be lightly golden and spring back when gently touched. Remove from oven and place pans on a rack to cool for about 10 minutes prior to removing from pans to cool completely, about 2 hours or longer, prior to slicing.
Tip from Mel: Always bake two and freeze (or share) one.
Special Equipment List: 8" x 8" x 2" baking pan; cutting board; chef's knife; box grater; cotton flour-sack-type towel; whisk; large rubber spatula; 2, 8" x 4" loaf pans; kitchen scale (optional); cake tester or toothpick; cooling rack
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)