My summer squash plants shriveled up and died this year, leaving me in the lurch. I’m one of the few people who can’t get enough of the stuff, in all its forms: patty pan, yellow squash, and especially zucchini.
Perhaps you gardeners and friends-of-gardeners out there face the opposite problem and are swimming in squash. Fortunately, zucchini is bland and plays nicely with other flavors, so it’s not very challenging to weave into a menu. Writer Deena Prichep threw an all-zucchini dinner party a few years ago, featuring zucchini in every course, just to show her zucchini-hating friends what’s what.
But here’s my favorite way to put a dent in that pesky stockpile of baseball-bat-sized garden zukes that got out of control: fudgy and dense Mexican Chocolate Zucchini Bread. I came up with it a few years ago as an antidote to all of the classic but boring 1970s-style zucchini breads. Adding cocoa powder and a little cayenne to the mix gave it a sophisticated edge. This recipe is vegan; I’ve found vegan quick breads have a richer texture and more refined crumb. I promise everyone, vegan or not, will love this complex, cakey loaf. I top slices with a smear of plain Greek yogurt and enjoy them for breakfast or a snack.
Oh, and a tip: to keep your summer squash at bay, just pick it earlier, when it’s still small and tender. If your monster zucchinis weigh more than a newborn baby, make sure to use only the outer parts and not the pulpy interior.
Mexican Chocolate Zucchini Bread
This makes two loaves, but it keeps well. I sometimes freeze one loaf for later. The amount of liquid needed to create a wet enough batter might change, depending on the moisture content of your zucchini.
Makes two 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2 inch loaves
¼ cup finely ground flax seed or chia seed
1-1/4 cups strong-brewed coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
15 ounces (3 cups) whole-wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
14-1/2 ounces (2 cups) sugar
2 ounces (10 tablespoons) natural (preferably not Dutch-processed) cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon, or ½ teaspoon cassia cinnamon (the normal kind)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon baking powder
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated zucchini
1/3 cup cacao nibs or 1 to ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips, optional
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the center. Grease and flour two 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2 inch loaf pans.
In a medium bowl, combine the ground flaxseed, coffee, and vanilla. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon, cayenne, and baking powder. Add the vegetable oil, zucchini, and the coffee-flax mixture and fold together with a large rubber spatula until combined. The batter will be thick, with a body that resembles brownie batter. If the batter is too dry or pasty, fold in a few more tablespoons of coffee, or some water or non-dairy milk. Stir in the cacao nibs or chocolate chips, if using.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake until the tops are dry and springy and a skewer inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Cool bread in pans for 5 minutes, then remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack. The loaves will have a better flavor if aged for a day before you slice into them.
By Sara Bir of The Sausagetarian