Sunday, December 13, 2020

Baker's Corner: Zucchini Chocolate Loaf


Who else finds themselves humming Jingle Bells for a large part of the day? 🙋 

December is truly a magical month and despite this year being the way it has been, the inherent festive cheer that this month commands, has the ability to dispel all feelings of hopelessness and gloom. 

Celebrating Christmas and New Year in Singapore feels a bit strange maybe because it is only the third time in 14 years that we are at home. The last time was when our twins were just over a month old putting travel on hold and before that was when I was thick in the midst of finishing up my Masters thesis and the timing just wasn't suitable. Not seeing our parents and siblings for an entire year is unprecedented for us, thus making the call of the homeland stronger than ever. But even though (like many others) we are not flying back home for the holidays, we are taking it in our stride and trying to make the best of the Christmas and New Year break. 

Much to the delight of our children, for the first time, we have set up a Christmas tree at home. I must admit, looking at the tree lit up and adored with shiny baubles and cheery ornaments is an instant mood lifter! In keeping with my annual December Christmas fruit cake tradition, I've already baked three batches of cake for the family and as part of edible gift bags. Over the last two weeks, I and the girls dabbled in some holiday art and craft projects together which has been rather fun. And this year, as a special treat, we have planned to surprise them with some Christmas presents. Currently, they are under the impression that the presents under the tree are empty and just for decoration! 😆 We have made plans for several small reunions (keeping in mind the restrictions) so we have plenty to look forward to. We are going to turn these few weeks into an opportunity to take a breather, relax and unwind, cook, bake, enjoy good food, spend quality time with family and close friends and catch up with those we have not met in a while. Religious customs aside, that pretty much sums up the essence of Christmas doesn't it? 


A few months ago, I baked this Zucchini Chocolate Loaf. The use of zucchini, oil, brown sugar and chocolate chips made it super duper moist and the mix of ground spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg) gave it a lovely perfume and flavour. The girls were completely obsessed with it and the entire loaf was polished off in less than two days 😀 I had read that zucchini in cakes and bread helps to add moisture without imparting any taste so I was keen to try the tip. Normally, I don't use zucchini much in my cooking. I rarely add it to pasta dishes and on the occasion that I make sai bhaji (an Indian variety of dal). But after this success, I made a mental note to experiment more with zucchini in my sweet and savoury bakes. 

This recipe is very simple and (mostly) consists of pantry staples. You can add the ground spices based on the availability and your preference. If you don't have chocolate chips at home then you can toss in your favourite dried fruit and nuts. You could also just stick to the zucchini and omit the chocolate chips and/or dried fruit and nut altogether. Also, if you don't want to bake it as a loaf you could turn it into muffins. I am seriously contemplating turning into a staple for my kids snack box next year by tweaking the recipe with part whole wheat flour or almond flour and replacing the chocolate chips with raisins, dried cranberries and pecans (I'll let you know if it works!). There are so many variations possible folks. So I declare without a shred of doubt that this recipe is a keeper! 


I had invited some guests home yesterday for a pre-Christmas meet-up and I was wondering what to serve for dessert. I casually asked the kids what I should make and to my surprise, they blurted out Zucchini (well they actually said "Zicconi " 😆) Chocolate Bread. I was surprised that they actually even remembered that after so many months! I decided that if it was THAT memorable then it should be good enough to make an impression on my guests! 

This Christmas, try this recipe either for a family meal or as part of a dinner party menu. You will not be disappointed I promise 😊

I hope you enjoy the holiday season with your loved ones but please remember to stay safe as well!


Zucchini Chocolate Loaf

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Baking Time: 45-50 minutes 
Total Time: ~1 hour (excludes cooling time)
Yield: 1 loaf or 12 muffins
Recipe category: Dessert/Western
Recipe level: Easy
Recipe source: Adapted from here

Ingredients:

1.5 cups (190g) all-purpose flour (levelled)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup (180g) semi-sweet chocolate chips 
1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable oil 
1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup (about 1 medium) grated green or yellow zucchini 

Method:

1. Measure out all the ingredients and keep them ready. Preheat the oven to 177°C (350°F). Grease and line a 9×5 (or 8×4) inch loaf pan. Refer notes for muffins. 


2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and chocolate chips together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside. 


3. Slightly blot the grated zucchini on a paper towel (no need to press and squeeze out all the moisture). In a medium bowl, whisk the vegetable oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, vanilla, and grated zucchini together until combined. 


4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Gently whisk until just combined; do not overmix. 

5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes. You can loosely cover the loaf with aluminum foil halfway through to prevent heavy browning on top. Baking time can vary so keep a close eye on the loaf around the 40 minute mark. The bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean with no raw batter. Remove the bread from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely before slicing.



6. Cover and store the bread at room temperature for up to 3-4 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.




Notes:
  • You can add in chopped nuts of your choice (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans) and dried fruit (raisins or cranberries) instead of the chocolate chips
  • Instead of the semi-sweet chocolate chips you can also use white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips or peanut butter chips
  • You can make the bread ahead of time by freezing it. Bake it, cool it, wrap it up in aluminum foil and freeze the loaf as a whole. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before slicing and serving. Freezes well up to 3 months.
  • To make muffins, grease a 12-count muffin pan or line with liners. Prepare batter and spoon it evenly into each liner, filling each to up to 3/4th the level. Bake the muffins for 5 minutes at 218°C (425°F) then, keeping the muffins in the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 177°C (350°F). Bake for an additional 13-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes in the muffin pan, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.


Cheers,
Megha


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