Saturday, March 13, 2010

Muffins and bread

Breads that have squash in them are probably my favorite. I love pumpkin bread, butternut squash muffins are to die for, and zucchini bread is heaven! If you bake at all you have probably already figured out that baked goods that have pureed fruits or vegetables are unbelievably moist and have an added depth of flavor. Banana breads, applesauce muffins, sweet potato pancakes....the list goes on and on.
If you love zucchini bread, raise your hand! I know I do. And if you have never had it, and think, 'I don't like zucchini' your missing out! The only time I remember having zucchini bread was at a coffee shop where I worked as a teenager. I wouldn't try it at first, then, one day, I was very hungry. My usual cranberry-orange bread was gone, and one of my coworkers convinced me that I would really like it. So, I tried it. It was amazing! Moist and rich with just a hint of cinnamon. Mmmm, Mmmm!
I often asked people if they had the recipe. I also searched through cookbooks and had no luck. I found a few recipes on the Internet, but you know how that is. You just don't want to exert the effort for something when you are unsure of the outcome.
Then one day, I found a recipe for Zucchini Nut Muffins in a magazine. It was actually an advertisement for washed raw cane sugar. I adapted the recipe a little bit, and made the muffins. It goes together in the usual way, combine dry ingredients, then the moist ones separately and fold together. There is quite a bit of beating with the eggs, undoubtedly the reason for the breads wonderful texture. I add nuts if I have them, but we have little people who don't like walnuts in their bakery goods, so I tend to stay away from them. The same can be said for the sultanas. I am not particularly fond of raisins (see: Raindrops on roses...) and again, even though my little men eat raisins, they don't want them in their bread!

The beaten sugar and eggs create a lovely crunchy topping for the muffins. I tested them out soon after reading the article and we absolutely loved them! My only complaint is it makes quite a few and they become hard after just a day, which usually happens with freshly baked, preservative-free goodies.
Just recently I decided to just change the recipe a little further and make a loaf instead of muffins. It came out a beautiful dark brown and it was so moist and delicious. Whenever I make this I try to bake it the night before to eat for breakfast the next morning. What usually happens is everybody smells it cooking and by the time my sister, husband and little boys have a piece, its mostly gone. I no longer have a problem with staleness.

I love a warm slice soaked with butter, sitting next to my coffee...divine.

Zucchini Walnut Bread

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark is fine)
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated, unpeeled zucchini
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sultanas (golden raisins) (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, then set aside. Combine sugars and eggs in a large mixing bowl and beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add oil, beating constantly 2-3 minutes. Add zucchini and vanilla and blend well. Stir in walnuts and raisins, if using. Fold in sifted dry ingredients just until batter is evenly moistened-be careful not to over mix. Spoon batter into 2 greased, non-stick loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour. Top will be a very rich, dark brown. Let stand 10 minutes, then turn out on a rack to cool.

If using a stand mixer: I just start with the eggs and sugar, and add the oil as directed. Then I follow with the dry ingredients (I don't premix them) and end with the walnuts and raisins. It turns out fine that way also.

Muffins: Preheat oven to 350. Spoon prepared batter into greased, non-stick muffin pans. Bake 25 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned. Makes about 24 muffins.

If you find yourself with an abundance of zucchini, I like to grate mine and freeze it for later use. I have seen no change in the result of the bread.

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