Fall is finally here, and I, for one, am ready to say farewell to summer’s heat and humidity. I’m even prepared to trade in the warm weather’s rich assortment of produce for autumn’s array of apples, winter squash, roasted chestnuts, and the like. This is my favorite time of year, and I adore the comfort food that accompanies the cool weather and brilliant foliage.
All this being said, I must admit, though, that I am having a difficult time saying goodbye to one seasonal fruit, in particular: summer squash. Yes, I know it’s available year-round, but summer’s bounty is special. I’ve cooked a lot with it the past few months. I have served zucchini and yellow squash grilled, sautéed, in soups, salads, and even in an impromptu ratatouille-like chili.
My favorite way to celebrate fresh local zucchini, though, is to bake it into bread. For quite some time, I searched for the perfect recipe. I don’t know why it took me so long to settle on one I really liked. I guess I was looking for a loaf that succeeded in all areas. I wanted the bread to be moist; pleasantly, but not too, sweet; golden brown; and leavened enough to form a lovely domed and slightly cracked top.
After several tries and many donations to neighbors, I finally found a recipe that satisfies my criteria. This batter makes two loaves, but you could also use it to fill small loaves or muffin pans. I usually serve the bread plain, but it would also be lovely drizzled with lemon glaze or even spread with buttercream or cream-cheese icing. I have found that using cake flour makes for a tender, light bread, while the whole-wheat flour contributes a nuttiness and depth of flavor. If, however, you have neither, simply use three cups of all-purpose flour in place of the cake and whole-wheat flours. The bread stores well in the refrigerator for at least a week or in the freezer for about two months.
Yes, I realize summer squash is best in its namesake season. But, seeing that we are fortunate to have access to zucchini year-round, I encourage you to make this bread whenever you are yearning for a taste of warm weather, or are just in the mood for a comforting, satisfying loaf.
Summer’s Best Zucchini Bread
Makes two 8-by-4-inch loaves
3 cups cake flour
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium zucchini)
3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour two 8-by-4-inch loaf pans.
Whisk together the cake flour, whole-wheat flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice in a medium bowl.
Combine the granulated and brown sugars and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the vanilla, reduce the mixing speed to low, and add the zucchini, beating until just incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the nuts, if desired.
Divide the batter between the two prepared pans, set the pans on a baking sheet, and bake until the breads are well risen, golden brown, and a wooden skewer inserted in the centers comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Set the breads on a wire rack to cool in the pans for about 15 minutes before turning out to cool completely.