Cooking with Pete and Barb Marczyk: chocolate zucchini bread
Pete Marczyk and Barbara Macfarlane do not leave their work behind when they leave Marczyk Fine Foods and head for their great old Denver house with the big, new kitchen. They often bring some of their market's choicest ingredients home with them and cook up a feast.
It's August, Barb reminds us, and while that means back-to-school busyness for many of us, for Barb and Pete, August signifies zucchini season. "Three years ago, when Pete and I started doing recipes for Westword, one of our earliest posts was for zucchini done three ways...and some things never change," she quips. And that, she adds, "includes gardeners planting three zucchini plants when all we needed was one."
The old joke that goes something like, "The first time I saw a zucchini in the garden, I killed it with a hoe," still stands, contends Barb. "One day it's fine, and the next it's a monster." If you, like Pete and Barb, have more zucchinis that you know what to do with, Barb recommends plucking them from the garden and spending a few hours in the kitchen baking chocolate zucchini bread, using a recipe from Simply Recipes.
The recipe makes two loaves, but you can easily divide the recipe in half to make just one. And while the recipe calls for four cups of grated zucchini, which will yield loaves that are never dry, Barb says she's made it with three cups, which "was also very good -- just not as sublime as with four cups," she notes.
Yield: Makes 2 loaves.
4 cups grated zucchini (from about a pound and a half of zucchini)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (use natural unsweetened cocoa, NOT Dutch processed)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter (12 Tbsp or 1 1/2 sticks), melted
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1. Place the freshly grated zucchini in a sieve over a bowl to catch any excess moisture as it drains, while you work on prepping the other ingredients and preparing the recipe.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F, with a rack in the middle. Grease two 9x5-inch loaf pans with baking spray or butter.
3. Vigorously whisk together the flour, unsweetened cocoa, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk until there are no more clumps and the ingredients are well combined.
4. In a separate large bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs until smooth, about a minute. You can do this with an electric mixer on medium speed, or by hand with a wooden spoon. (I'm lazy and use a mixer but it's easy enough to do by hand.) Add the melted butter, instant coffee granules, and almond extract and beat until smooth.
5. Mix the shredded zucchini into the sugar egg mixture. Add the flour to the zucchini mixture in 3 additions, stirring to combine after each addition.
6. Work quickly, and divide the batter between the two prepared loaf pans. (Work quickly because once the dry ingredients have mixed with the wet ingredients, the leavening has begun.) Place into the oven. Bake for 50 minutes at 350°F, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean and easily. Remove to a rack. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then run a blunt knife around the edges to separate the bread from the pan. Remove from the loaf pans and let cool completely on a rack.
Note that if you try to slice the chocolate zucchini bread before it has completely cooled, it will be rather crumbly. It's also easiest to slice with a bread knife.