This is one outrageous zucchini bread. The batter will have your eyes rolling to the back of your head. I can honestly say the first time I tasted the batter I seriously considered not baking the bread at all and , instead, simply eating it all…one generous, sloppy spoonful after another until there was no more. I first began baking zucchini bread for my son, James, when he was a toddler but I never called it zucchini bread. I’m pretty sure he would have turned his cute little Greek nose up at it, but how about “tea bread”? He loved Mama’s “tea bread” and even helped me bake it. Many a morning he suggested we invite his grandmother, Mimi, over for a tea party with “tea bread”. Little scamp. I covered his small, round child’s table with a linen tablecloth and set places for James, Mimi and his two best friends, Bert and Ernie. I prepared cafe con leche or James’ favorite tea, Constant Comment and served the guests while they chatted politely about Curious George, which day that week they would go feed the ducks or the latest happenings on Sesame Street…”Mimi! Did you know there is a number 9?” We have some lovely memories. I hope this recipe makes it to your next tea party!
This wonderful recipe I found in the booklet of directions and recipes which came with my Cuisinart food processor. I made no changes except for the addition of vanilla extract. The recipe is that perfect. It does state milk chocolate chips may be used as well but I’d rather have a sharp chocolate presence so I’ll stick with semi-sweet chips. If your food processor is another brand I’m pretty sure it will be just fine. (But I DO adore my Cuisinart!)
pinch of nutmeg (I used almost 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated)
1 large zucchini (about 12 ounces)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (this is not part of the original recipe)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
Pre-heat oven to 325°F. Lightly coat a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Reserve.
Combine the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Reserve.
Insert the shredding disc with the medium side facing up. Shred zucchini. Add to the bowl with the reserved dry ingredients.
Put the sugar, eggs and oil into the large work bowl fitted with the large chopping blade. Process on high for 30 seconds. Add dry ingredients and pulse, to just combine, about 8 to 10 times. Remove blade. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.
What a week, huh? And it’s only Tuesday! I learned a dear, dear cousin of mine in Puerto Rico is sick. The family here stateside was devastated. My cousin in Tallahassee and I were in the process of planning a last minute trip to PR, furiously texting back and forth, when suddenly I received not a text but a phone call from her. She had been pulled out of her grad class and was on her way to the emergency room and would I please say a prayer for her. Her oldest of three had been hit by a car while riding his bike home. She knew nothing else of his condition but that. She heard my voice calm and soothing assuring her my siblings and I would immediately start a prayer circle. She heard my words of quiet strength and hope. She could not see my knees buckle with fear nor did she see my eyes fill up with tears. Hours later I received the text stating he was fine! His face and hands were all bloodied up. His glasses were lost and his bike mangled but he was more than okay. He had worn his protective helmet and it had done its job. I wanted to do something for them. I wanted to jump in my little car and 400 miles later show up at her door arms filled with baked goods. I wanted to wrap her entire family in my arms because family is everything to us.
And this is what I would have taken. It’s an easy quick bread that when baking fills your house with the warm smells of fall. The smells that make you feel cozy and safe from harm. Whether you have a slice with a cup of coffee or hot tea or even a glass of milk, this quick bread is satisfying and positively luscious. I use reduced fat cream cheese in the icing because it’s a bit tangier than whole fat and that tang is more than welcome in the rich frosting. It also marries quite well with the piquant ginger. Here’s to hoping the rest of the week is a little easier to handle. I heard a rumor today’s election day but after last night I can handle this hands down. Good luck everybody!
Pumpkin Spice Bread with Ginger Cream Cheese Icing
Cover a 1.5 quart glass loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, allspice and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a separate bowl use a hand mixer to combine pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, butter, canola oil and vanilla. Mix until all ingredients are well combined and mixture is smooth.
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir by hand until there are no more flour streaks.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
Place pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes then turn bread out of pan and allow to cool completely on cooling rack.
Ginger Cream Cheese Icing
1 8-ounce block cream cheese, I prefer reduced fat, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons ginger paste or finely grated fresh ginger. Ginger paste is in a tube found in the produce department of your grocery store.
1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
Using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese, butter and ginger until completely combined.
Add the confectioners sugar and mix until smooth.
When the pumpkin bread has completely cooled mound the icing on top and smooth to your liking.
If you’re not serving the bread for a day or two keep the bread in the refrigerator. Just prior to serving mix up the icing, top the bread with it and serve. Or serve the icing dolloped on top of individual slices.
Every once in a while I find wild blueberries in the market during berry season and when I do I become the baking fool. Typically the berries are tiny but I’m here to tell you they are packed with flavor. Years ago we were in Maine for a family vacation when I tasted fresh blueberry juice for the first time. Cool, rich and gorgeous in color I savored every drop each and every morning. We were staying at a cushy lodge in Bar Harbor and they served pitchers of the freshly made juice at breakfast. I was delighted to find the berries growing wild everywhere. We saw little, scrubby bushes while hiking through Acadia National Park all loaded with the ubiquitous blue-black fruit. The same scraggly bushes dotted the sides of roads, front lawns and street corners. It was great! Unfortunately I rarely find wild Maine blueberries in South Florida but they are available every now and again and that’s when I make, among other things, this bread. Which is more like tea cake; it’s not heavily sweetened and the fresh fruit also gives the bread a welcome tartness. It’s perfect for a breakfast on the run by itself or toasted and slathered with peanut or almond butter. Later in the day it will be gladly received with a steamy cup of tea or coffee to resist that 3:00 p.m. crash. This is one of those easy, roll with it recipes in that just about all berries work well. I particularly like the blueberry and raspberry combination but you can add cut strawberries or use strictly one kind of berry. I usually use 12 ounces of blueberries and 6 ounces of raspberries. I’m not a fan of blackberries, (way too many seeds), but I made a quick sauce to trickle over the slices. The bread doesn’t need it, I just wanted another splash of color. It’s a gorgeous sauce and takes two seconds to strain out the seeds. Just google “blackberry sauce” and it’ll pop up. Another plus of this recipe is that it yields 2 loaves so you can surprise and delight a friend who maybe gave you an unexpected helping hand with a project you were working on and, hey, there’s one left for your family. You can give one to your 93-year old father who never gets freshly baked treats and you still have one for your family. Or you can just not say anything, tuck them in the freezer and take both of them to Hawk’s Cay for Girl’s Weekend so y’all have something to munch on at three in the morning when you’re ripped and singing “Drunk On A Plane” on top of the coffee table. It’s just a suggestion. I’m a huge fan of lemon juice and zest so I included it in the recipe but I’m pretty sure you can leave it out if you like. I do have one very important piece of advice that being once you add the dry ingredients to the wet don’t overwork the batter. The batter is thick and heavy so gently mix by hand and I find a large spoon helps to incorporate the wet with the dry with the least number of over/under strokes.
Grease and flour or spray with nonstick cooking spray 2-8.5X4.5 loaf pans (1.5 quarts) and set aside. I like to use Pyrex.
In a medium bowl mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently incorporate berries so they’re all covered with the flour mixture. Set aside.
In a large bowl cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
Add sugar and beat well.
Add eggs, lemon zest and juice and vanilla. Beat well until eggs are completely mixed in.
Stir in buttermilk.
Add flour mixture to the butter/cream cheese bowl and with a large spoon gently fold together until just blended taking care not to break berries apart. I find an overhand/underhand motion keeps the blending down to a minimum.
Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 45-50 minutes. Using Pyrex or glass loaf pans allows you to see how done the sides and bottoms are.
Set pans on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before removing breads from pans.
We’re on a flight to Chapel Hill to go see Jamesy and I cannot wait! The JetBlue television monitor at my seat has been left on the NYT channel and featured a piece on monkeys. I’m crazy about monkeys. Always have been. My love affair started when I was maybe three and a half…maybe four at the most. I liked going out and “poking around” with Dad on weekends. He always went to exotic places with activities that this little girl loved. We’d go over to Daddy’s friend, Jim Bloom’s house and Dad would just leave me outside. They’d be talking fish or orchids or koi ponds and I would be left in the middle of a bamboo forest on the back of a mammoth, lumbering Galapagos turtle. Talk about slow ride. Sometimes Cynthia would go and we would have races, both on the backs of these giant animals screaming “Go! Go! Go!” with our Florence Eiseman dresses on, tennis shoes and plain white socks. To say we had a blast is an understatement. When we returned home Mama never asked where we had gone or what we had done. Sometimes one of us would tell her sometimes not. Often Dad would take me to Pet Circus as he was good friends with the owner. Pet Circus was, as Dad puts it, “up on the highway” or Federal Highway to everyone else. Always he dropped me in a corner somewhere, leave me and go off with the owner to discuss the breeding habits of the Gouldian finch Dad was raising in enormous outdoor aviaries or to discuss some disease a tank of fish had contracted. But he always left me safe and in the same place. With my best friend, Judy. Judy the Chimp. In chimp years Judy was probably a preteen. She liked me and I liked her. Judy was in a huge cage-like run with lots of bars to swing on and plenty of room to run. At the beginning of our play date our greeting was always the same. I was shy and held back and she was also tentative and hung back. We would smile and slowly warm up to each other. We were both the same creatures we were two weeks prior. Eventually we hugged. I liked stroking her head because her hair was so soft. And I liked looking at her eyes. They were gentle and huge and round. She must have felt the same about me because she would play with my hair and pat my chubby, brown cheeks. When she felt comfortable enough with me she began to play. Judy ran a little to pick up speed then she’d grab a low bar and start swinging. I felt right at home. I ran fast but not as fast as Judy and I did my share of swinging on the bars but never was I to be as accomplished as Judy. We generally had a blast! We laughed and I spoke to Judy as though she was a little girlfriend. I guess she’d give some sort of reply. I don’t quite remember. But I do know we had a great friendship. When Daddy was finished after a few hours he’d come back, someone would unlock the “run” and we’d go home. I don’t remember my father EVER saying “Stop by the Ladies room on the way out and wash your hands. They must be filthy!”. Oh, hell no. He’d ask what we did, how high Judy could swing, how high I swung, did I try to teach her hop-scotch, did we play clapping games, that was what he was interested in. Many a Saturday morning was spent with Judy the Chimp. The last time I went was a typical weekend morning. Dad dropped me off, LOCKED ME IN THE RUN and went off with the owner to talk fish or birds or whatever. After a while Dad said he heard screaming and shrieking and crying. In my direction. And Daddy came running. He later told me that when he got to me I was howling; big, fat tears streamed down my fat little cheeks. Judy was screaming and angry. It was our first and last fight. What were we fighting about you ask? We were fighting over a urine sodden ugly blue towel. We were essentially having a tug-of-war with it, each pulling in opposite directions. Why I wanted it I’ll never know but Dad whisked me out of there lickety-split. And I never saw Judy again. It made me so sad. I cried and cried, missing Judy as a little girl would cry over her best friend moving away. Over and over Daddy explained to me that when chimps get big they usually get mean. Very mean. Chimpanzees are incredibly strong, they can bite viciously and can easily mutilate a human. I understood he was trying to protect me but I was trying to make him understand that Judy and I had a really special relationship and she would never hurt me. Be that as it may, I was not to see her again and that was that. However, I never stopped loving her or monkeys…they’re still all over my house. Prints, fabric, art. So I dedicate this banana bread to my first girlfriend, Judy. Judy the Chimp.
This is the first recipe I ever used for banana bread and it’s still one of my favorites. It’s from the 1964 Junior League cookbook entitled “Nashville Seasons”. I’ve made it a million times. It’s simple, direct and pretty much a no-fail quick bread. Really ripe bananas yield the best loaf. It’s lovely toasted or eaten cold and freezes well.