Bread of the Month: Grating the grand zuke

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Some of us don’t — and shouldn’t — forget those wonderful souls from our childhood who saw us as more than mere children, who recognized our BEING, which included our promise, our talents, our abilities. Who gave us hope and encouragement beyond the usual pats on the head or behavioral correction. Who made us feel important.

cookcov01We all had teachers who did this — I know mine and will acknowledge them in time. I also had fellow kindred spirits of the kitchen, who rallied my early culinary abilities.

I was but a wee lass of seven when I stirred up my first batch of chocolate chip cookies. I had assessed the available ingredients and secured permission. I had the will and the acumen, but not the height — I had to drag a chair to the counter to do the job. Once that baking session ended — successfully, I might add — there was no turning back.stains01 By age 10, 11, I was cranking out cookies by the quadruple batches and was even enlisted to make them regularly as refreshments for an organization to which my mother belonged.

The sense of duty and pride (and sweat) that was established through this endeavor stays with me to this day (I still bake treats by the boatload to give away). And I garnered a few fans, one of whom was a warm, sweet and sweet-loving lady named Darlene Augustine.

I mostly felt invisible throughout my childhood, but my baking set me apart. Darlene — among a number of others — saw this and encouraged the one thing that brought out a little light in me each time we saw each other. She also made gifts to me out of cookbooks, whether a simple baking magazine from Pillsbury or a hardcover collection of “great recipes” from The New York Times. When I was a teenager, she gave me a little spiral-bound book, “Miriam B. Loo’s Fresh-From-The-Oven-Breads” (1982). I’ve baked my way through this book a number of times and still reach for it, splattered pages and all, most regularly. zuke02Whether it’s the Buttermilk Pancakes, Banana Bread or even the Double Carrot Bread from which I developed my carrot cake recipe, I like to think that each time I open the book, Darlene is cheering me all the way. I’m sure she is.

Among the many recipes I love from this humble little cookbook, is the Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread. As summer approaches and gardens blossom with those dark green zukes — sometimes to excess — delicious, moist zucchini bread can be a nice way to use the veggies. Some folks unfamiliar with zucchini bread may find it sounds strange; once they taste it, they are sold. zuke03The flavor is subtle, the texture, unbeatable, with those lively green flecks of zucchini peel adding a unique color to a hearty quick bread. The wonderful thing about zucchini bread is that it gets better — more flavorful and moister — the longer you keep it (store in the refrigerator). For this recipe, some cinnamon and nutmeg give it a warm, homey spice — who says spices are just for wintertime baking?.The whole wheat flour adds to its health benefits, as well as lending a nutty flavor. I have made this as full-size loaves, muffins and mini loaves to be handed out as gifts.

Thanks, Darlene. You were a gift.after

Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread
From “Miriam B. Loo’s Fresh-From-The-Oven Breads” (1982)
Makes 3 small loaves

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped nuts
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups shredded zucchini

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour three 7-1/2-by-3-1/2-by2-1/4-inch loaf pans; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and nuts; set aside. In a large mixer bowl, beat eggs, sugar and oil at medium speed until fluffy. With a spoons, stir in zucchini. Add dry ingredients to egg-zucchini mixture, stirring just until flour is moistened. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until tests done. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool on wire racks. When cool, wrap in foil and refrigerate. Slice and serve the following day.zbread05

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