Every summer, gardeners across the world, and those (un?)fortunate enough to be their neighbors, face the annual zucchini glut. Zucchini don’t care about you or how much you want to eat, they just want to make more and more squash. What is one to do with all this produce?
Quick bread doneness temp: 200°F (93°C)
The easy answer? Make zucchini bread. Zucchini bread is a great way to eat your veggies—after all, it just tastes like cake, and neighbors are much more likely to take a loaf of zucchini bread than a box of zucchini. But a zucchini bread loaf is only any good if you want to eat it, and that means it has to be properly cooked. Here, we’ll take a look at the doneness temps for zucchini bread and other quick breads so that you’re well equipped to bombard your neighborhood with the tastiest veggie-desserts they’ve ever eaten.
What is the point of zucchini bread?
Zucchini itself probably came to America in the 1920’s with Italian immigrants, whence it quickly spread to gardens and farms across the country.
But what about the bread? According to Google’s n-gram viewer, the term “zucchini bread” didn’t make almost any appearances before 1961, and really started to take off around 1973. It presumably existed well before that, but no one was writing about it much. Why make a bread from zucchini? Well, it’s actually kind of perfect. Zucchini is full of vitamins and has a very mild flavor that can easily be disguised by sugar and a few warm cooking spices. If you’re going to eat cake, it may as well contain some hidden vitamins, right?
But that’s not all. Zucchini’s texture and water content make it perfect for incorporating into thick-batter quick breads. As the zucchini cooks in the batter, it releases its water into the surrounding batter, keeping the cake moist. By the time the bread is finished baking, you’d be hard-pressed to identify where the cake stops and the zucchini starts.
Oh, and zucchini bread freezes well, making preservation of your garden’s harvest both tasty and easy.
Quick breads: what are they and how do we cook them?
Above, I called zucchini bread a “quick bread,” but what even is a quick bread? Quick breads are a segment of what we call “thick batter” breads. These are batters thicker than, say, tempura, but thinner than a proper, kneadable dough. Pumpkin bread, pound cake, and even muffins fit in the category.
Though they may vary in sweetness or savoriness, they all have a few things in common.
They’re leavened with baking powder or soda, and often contain moderate amounts of egg and fat in addition to sugar. They devolop a dense, moist, texture that accommodates nuts, dried fruits, and even such fresh fruits as apples, blueberries, carrots and zucchini, whose moistness readily blends into the moistness of the crumb. Potatoes and bananas can be mashed to become part of the batter itself.-Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking, pg 554
The dense, moist texture McGee talks about has one drawback—knowing when the bread is done. Some people say to stick it with a toothpick, but how often does that result lie to you? Instead, you should pull your quick breads, zucchini included, at 200°F (93°C). At that point, the baking powder/soda will have released its carbon dioxide, the proteins from the eggs will have coagulated and the starches from the flour will have gelled, which is a long-winded way of saying that the cake will be done.
By using a fast, accurate thermometer like the Thermapen® Mk4, you can be sure that the centers of your quick breads are done to perfection.
Zucchini bread, based on the recipe from SimplyRecipes.com.
- 4 C grated fresh zucchini
- 3 C (390 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 1/3 C granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 C unsalted butter, melted
- More butter for greasing the pans
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C). Butter two 9″ x 5″ loaf pans.
- Let the zucchini drain in a colander to drop a little of its excess moisture. If you like, you can press more water out by wringing the grated squash in a tea towel, but you’ll need to add more water to make up for that lost moisture later.
- In one bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla, sugar. Add the zucchini and the melted butter and stir to combine.
- In a separate, large bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. You should end up with a very thick but still pourable batter. If there is not enough liquid to wet the flour and achieve a barely-pourable consistency, add water a tablespoon or two at a time until such a texture is achieved.
- Divide the batter evenly into the two pans. It will not look like a lot of batter in each pan. Don’t worry, it will rise.
- Place the pans in the oven and set a timer for 45 minutes. Bake the breads.
- When the timer sounds, check the temperature with your Thermapen by inserting it deeply through the center of the bread and pulling it out slowly, looking for the lowest temp. If the lowest temp you read is 200°F (93°C) or higher, take the bread out. If not, close the oven and reset your timer for another 45 minutes or so, depending on how close to the pull-temp you were.
- Allow the breads to cool in the pans until you can handle them. Turn the breads out and finish cooling. Serve, or cool completely and freeze in freezer bags.
Instead of sneaking zucchini onto your neighbors’ porches this year, why not give them something they want? Make perfectly-done zucchini bread with friends, and for your friends. Remember to check the internal temp and pull it at 200°F (93°C) for this or any other quick bread. You might like it so much you’ll plant one more zucchini bush next year.
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