Like many young home cooks, I cut my chops on my beloved Easy Bake Oven. If Dad was in town, I could always count on him to taste with much enthusiasm the little cakes cooked by the heat of a light bulb. “Wow, delicious” he would say, as I swelled with pride. But the Easy Bake went by the wayside when my palate graduated to a better quality of baking.
The warm fragrance of cinnamon takes me back to one particular snowy Minnesota morning, baking and hanging out with my friend Carla and her mom, Mrs. Halvorson. It might have been Halstrom or Gunderson. Which ever ‘-son’ it was (mine was Hanson), we grated zucchini by hand and played Mystery Date while we patiently waited for our breads to bake, the house filling with heavenly aromas. I was captivated with the transformation of the lowly vegetable into something decidedly un-vegetable like: Zucchini Bread. This was real food, not Easy Bake offerings. Mom let me serve the Zucchini Bread for Thanksgiving that year, and it graced our Thanksgiving table many years thereafter.
Here I present Zucchini Bread, Two Ways. The chocolate version is terrific with extra chocolate chips tossed in. I prefer to omit the nuts in the chocolate version. But my favorite is the regular Zucchini Bread (see the Note below directions) with walnuts. Cinnamon is the only spice needed; nutmeg or cloves would only muddy it up. Try Penzey’s Spices for their excellent cinnamon varieties and vanilla extracts. Keep your electric mixer in the cabinet for this recipe. Stirring with a spoon feels good, fosters baking with care and love, and makes for a good kid-friendly recipe. I somehow still manage to make a huge mess in the kitchen, nonetheless. Protect your hands and countertops with my beautiful, heavy duty Thanksgiving-themed and Christmas-themed hot pads, sewn also with care and love.
Because Thanksgiving is upon us once again, I am sending up my thanks to Hasbro, for its Easy Bake Oven and memories kept, and to Dad, for being a good sport and memories plentiful.
Zucchini Bread, Two Ways
2 C. all-purpose flour 1 C. vegetable oil
1 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 tsp. salt ¾ C. semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. ground cinnamon 2 C. grated zucchini
3 eggs 1 C. chopped walnuts (optional)
1 C. white sugar
1 C. packed brown sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9×5-inch loaf pans; set aside.
Finely chop the unsweetened chocolate and place in a double boiler (or use two saucepans), and melt over simmering hot water, stirring until smooth; remove from heat and set aside.
In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; set aside.
In a large bowl combine eggs, white and brown sugars, oil and vanilla; beat well. Stir in the melted chocolate until well combined. Gradually stir in the flour mixture, combining until incorporated. Stir in the zucchini, chocolate chips and chopped nuts; stir until combined. Batter will be thick.
Divide batter evenly among the prepared loaf pans; bake for 50 to 70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely.
NOTE: For Zucchini Bread, omit unsweetened chocolate and chocolate chips, and increase cinnamon by ½ teaspoon.