People these days have no restraint, it seems, when it comes to naming things as “Ze Best”.
That’s it for today’s lesson, folks. For your homework, head over to Google.com and type “best ever chocolate chip cookies” in the search bar. Use a graduated befuddle-o-meter to measure the general trends of your frustration / confusion / anger levels as you delve deeper and deeper into the black hole that is finding a decent chocolate chip cookie recipe.
|Real scientific. source|
Or even better, head over to Pinterest and spend a few minutes—seconds, even—browsing the infinite deluge of recipes in your feed (what, you don’t have an infinite deluge of recipes in your feed? Must be a plebe) and count the number of recipes you see labeled as “the best”; “best ever”; “greatest evaaaa” or whatever the fuck else people have the nerve to label their recipes as. I mean, damn, show a little humility here!
In fact, I just got off of Pinterest (of course I did) and saw several claims of superiority about ordinary-looking peanut butter cookies, Margarheta pizza, chocolate peanut butter lava cakes, corn on the cob, salad dressing, cornbread, buttercream, and so on and so on. Can I sue these people? You know, for false advertising?
|You call that deluxe? Motherfucker. source|
Lost in such baseless assertions is the idea that hey, maybe we don’t all like the same kinds of foods! Maybe I like my cookies to be crunchy, not OMGsoftandchewy, or maybe someone doesn’t want pizza with crust the thickness of a redwood—
|About yay big. source|
—or perhaps some folks aren’t really interested in your OMGliterallythefluffiestever banana bread. Maybe someone wants something dense and hearty.
|Why is that when I google "hearty", all that comes up is beef chili? source|
And I think it’s safe to say being “soft” isn’t the world’s most enticing attribute of a food. You know what else is soft? Wait, no, I won’t say it.
So of course, with zucchini season slamming us all in the faces and offering up piles upon piles of that damned squash, we are once again going through the cycle of Post all the zucchini bread recipes! Claim yours is Ze Best! Because it is so Soft! Fluffy! Moist!
And frankly, it’s all pointless, because guess what? America’s Test Kitchen has a recipe.
And when America’s Test Kitchen has a recipe for something, you might as well stop trying to top that, because you never will.
They invest zillions of dollars in making zillions of batches of the same things with slight changes and hire zillions of taste testers—although inexplicably, they have not yet hired me—to make sure that everyone, and I mean everyone, comes to a consensus that yes, this is Ze Best. Evah. Then they go and hire zillions of “home cooks” (I quote) to come and make the recipe to ensure that your average dumbass can understand the instructions. Your average dumbass tends to be very literal, you see, and cannot comprehend basic instructions like “do the mixing, bake until done, let cool”.
|What the fuck, are you Amelia Bedelia?!? source|
As such, I was thrilled to see the July & August edition of Cook’s Illustrated (a magazine which is unfortunately filled with lots of meaty recipes) not only had a recipe for cream cheese-swirled brownies (OMGOMGOMG) but zucchini bread as well. Total score.
Even better, the only animal products in the entire recipe were the eggs, which can easily be replaced with mashed banana—making this an awesome way to use up both copious amounts of zucchini and a couple overripe bananas. But don’t worry; the bananas are hardly detectable even if you know they are in there, so it’s still firmly a traditional zucchini bread.
Yet this loaf is far from traditional. The vigorous wringing of the shredded zucchini allows us to use a whopping 1 ½ pounds of the stuff without making it gummy and gross: finally, a true “use up the squash” recipe like zucchini bread has always claimed to be. Makes the mere 10 or so ounces used in most recipes seem awfully trivial, doesn’t it?
And while it tastes like a butter-soaked treat, it actually has a surprisingly low oil content—only ¼ cup—and even includes a half cup of whole wheat flour. This stuff is basically salad.
All it needs is dressing. Maybe some vanilla glaze…?
Here’s the recipe.
Vegan zucchini bread
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, July & August 2014
680 grams • zucchini, shredded • 1 ½ pounds
248 grams • brown sugar • 1 ¼ cups
54 grams • vegetable oil • ¼ cup
110 grams • bananas, mashed • ½ cup
4 grams • vanilla extract • 1 teaspoon
212 grams • all-purpose flour • 1 ½ cups
77 grams • whole wheat flour • ½ cup
8 grams • cinnamon • 1 tablespoon
9 grams • salt • 1 ½ teaspoons
5 grams • baking powder • 1 teaspoon
4 grams • baking soda • 1 teaspoon
1 gram • nutmeg • ½ teaspoon
110 grams • walnuts, toasted and chopped, or other nut (optional) • ¾ cup
12 grams • granulated sugar • 1 tablespoon
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.
Place zucchini in center of a dish towel. Gather the ends together and twist them to drain as much liquid as humanly possible. You should be able to wring out about ½ cup to 2/3 cup of liquid.
Whisk brown sugar, oil, bananas, and vanilla in a medium bowl, then fold in zucchini. In a large bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg.
Fold in wet mixture just until incorporated, then fold in walnuts (if using). Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Bake until top bounces back lightly when gently pressed and an inserted toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 65 to 75 minutes. Let bread cool in pan on a wire rack for about 30 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack. Slice and serve it up.
I won’t claim this loaf is “the best ever OMG”, but I will say that for my family, it is definitely a keeper. In fact, this was all that was leftover today when I set out to take a few pictures in the morning light:
Yes. Only two slices. In less than 24 hours.
That’s pretty much all you need to know about my family. Or this zucchini bread.
Also, because this version is so basic, you can add stuffin’s to your heart’s content. Raisins. Chocolate chips. Chocolate swirls. Caramel bits. Candied nuts. Gobs of peanut butter. Streusel. M&M’s. Everything but the kitchen sink.
If you can dream it, you can bake it.