zucchini bread

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baking has always been my stress reliever, and it’s much needed this week. I’ve had two zucchinis languishing in my fridge for a while, and figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and bake them into something. I have to say, zucchini bread does not fill me with the same joy that banana bread does (which may be why it’s taken me a while to get around to baking this loaf), but this recipe by tartine bakery, made with apricot preserves, is delightful, a lighter loaf that pairs wonderfully with black tea.

I will also say I did find that I had used a lot of kitchen gear at the end of this recipe – three bowls, one box grater, wooden spoon, whisk, and liquid measuring cup, and all of my cup, tablespoon and teaspoon measurements. normally, doing dishes is also a relaxing activity, and late last night, I suppose it was…relaxing…mostly tiring. anyways, I did sleep better than I have in a while last night!


makes one 9•5-in loaf

270g (1 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp vegetable oil
150g (3/4 cup) sugar
115g (1/2 cup) apricot preserves (or orange marmalade)
285g (2 1/2 cup) grated zucchini
1/2 tsp salt
115g (1 cup) walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp sugar for dusting

elisabeth m. prueitt and chad robertson. tartine. san francisco: chronicle books, 2006.

1 preheat oven to 350ºF. lightly grease a 9x5in loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
2 in a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. set aside.
3 in another mixing bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy (~5 minutes). (if using a handheld mixer, the same step will take ~8 minutes.)
4 on low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. don’t pour the oil in all at once; add it slowly so that it incorporates into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air beaten into the batter. add the marmalade, grated zucchini, and salt, and beat on low until just combined.
5 using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture and nuts into the egg mixture until thoroughly combined. no flour streaks should be visible, and the nuts should be evenly distributed. pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. sprinkle evenly with sugar.
6 bake for 60-70 minutes, until golden brown on top and center springs back when pressed. let cool on the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, then remove it from the pan to finish cooling.
7 the zucchini bread can be stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

*the batter must be baked immediately after mixing. otherwise, the sugar with macerate with the zucchini, pull out all the moisture, and make the batter very watery.

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vanilla bean shortbread

vanilla bean shortbread 1

I still remember the first time I read “the love song of j. alfred prufrock.” since I was young, I have been fascinated by the idea of perfection, which morphed later in life into an interest in the literary elevation of the ordinary. in “love song”, eliot captures so many normally inconsequential occurrences, from rolled trousers to thinning hair to life measured in coffee spoons, and imbues them with portentous significance. these moments flow together and against each other into a poem that is at once a dismantling of eternal perfection and a “love song” to the passage of time measured in mundane moments, more specifically to the way that the passing of time slowly but steadily brings about disintegration.

and yet, rather than feel dread, eliot writes with a certain acceptance – after all, the universe inclines naturally towards entropy.

I love too, that in this poem time is not a sequential concept, but instead becomes something more like tangled and bunched string, how at moments we can seem to have enough time left in our lives, or too much; too little, or none at all.

in modern society, the tradition of a formal, mid-afternoon respite has been forgotten by the younger generation. to us, every moment is somehow measured and aging has become something to avoid, to rail against with all of one’s strength. we spin ever-forward, we pause to catch our breath, we commence again.

baking has long been my solace – when I find a free moment, I love to fill my space with the scents of sugar and butter. I roll out some shortbread or cookie dough, I boil a kettle of tea. I sit and I read, and time falls away.

the love song of j. alfred prufrock [excerpt] | by t.s. eliot
there will be time, there will be time
to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
there will be time to murder and create,
and time for all the works and days of hands
that lift and drop a question on your plate;
time for you and time for me,
and time yet for a hundred indecisions,
and for a hundred visions and revisions,
before the taking of the toast and tea.

 
makes one 8•8-in pan

255g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) unsalted butter, very soft
1/2 tsp kosher salt
beans scraped from 1/2 vanilla pod
255g (1 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) all purpose flour
75g (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) cornstarch
70g + 55g (1/3 cup + 1/4 cup) granulated sugar, divided

elisabeth m. prueitt and chad robertson. tartine. san francisco: chronicle books, 2006.

1 preheat oven to 325ºF. butter an 8×8-in glass baking pan.
2 place the butter in a mixing bowl. the butter should be soft – with the consistency of mayonnaise. (if it is not, melt small portions of butter and mix into the rest of the butter, repeating until all of the butter is soft.) add salt and vanilla beans to butter and mix well with a wooden spoon until it dissolves completely.
3 sift flour and cornstarch together into a bowl.
4 add 70g granulated sugar (I used vanilla bean-infused sugar to add more vanilla flavor) to the butter and mix until just combined. add flour and fold into the butter just until a smooth dough forms.
5 press dough evenly into prepared baking dish. (the dough should be no more than 2/3-in deep. bake until top and bottom are lightly browned, ~30 min. very gently shake shortbread loose from the sides of the pan (the shortbread is very delicate, so be careful), then place the pan on a wire rack to cool until warm to the touch.
6 sprinkle shortbread with the remaining 55g granulated sugar. tilt the pan so sugar evenly coats the surface, then tip out excess sugar. while the shortcake is still warm, cut shortbread with a thin, sharp knife into 32 rectangular fingers (1-in x 2-in), or whatever dimensions you prefer.
7 chill pan throughly before removing shortbread. using a small offset spatula, gently lift shortbread out of the pan. shortbread will keep in an airtight container in a cool place for ~2 weeks.