Reinventing Zucchini Bread
What should be a light, moist snack is often a dense, greasy disappointment.
Could we lighten the loaf?
j by sarah mullins k
photography: CArl Tremblay
n the health food–crazed 1960s and ’70s,
recipes for zucchini bread popped up everywhere. With bits of healthy green vegetable
speckling the crumb, the bread was a sweet
treat you could not only enjoy but also feel virtuous about eating. But while other food fads have
come and gone, zucchini bread has remained
hugely popular—and for an entirely different reason: The high water content of the vegetable
makes it ideal for producing the soft, moist crumb
that is the hallmark of a great quick bread.
But zucchini can also be a liability, as too much
leads to a soggy loaf. That’s why, in spite of the
oft-stated goal of using up surplus squash, most
recipes top out at a mere 10 to 12 ounces. And
funnily enough, despite being associated with a
health-food movement, the recipes tend to call for
copious amounts of oil that turn the loaf greasy and
overly rich.
Packing more zucchini into the bread would
hopefully pave the way for scaling back the 1/2 to 3/4
cup of oil that most recipes call for, so I set a goal of
doubling the usual amount of squash. Simply folding coarsely grated zucchini shreds into the batter
is common, but wringing them out in a towel first
seemed like a better approach: The drier the zucchini
was, the more I could squeeze into a loaf without
sogging it out. Sure enough, a full ½ cup of pale
green liquid dripped out of 1½ pounds of squash.
Encouraged, I ran a few more zucchini along the fine
holes of the grater before wringing them out, reasoning that the increased surface area of the smaller
pieces would help expel more liquid. Indeed, I got
¾ cup of juice from this batch.
I used each type (both wrung out), as well as 1½
pounds of unsqueezed coarse shreds as a control,
in a typical zucchini bread recipe minus most of the
fat: all-purpose flour, generous amounts of baking
soda and powder for lift, sugar, touches of salt and
cinnamon, eggs, a handful of toasted walnuts, and
just 1/4 cup of oil. I scraped the batters into greased
loaf pans before putting them into 325-degree ovens.
The bread made with unsqueezed shreds emerged
predictably wet and gummy, and the finely shredded
loaf was just as dense—the thin shreds had clumped
Look: It Really Is Better
Video available free for 4 months
at CooksIllustrated.com/aug14
Zucchini Bread
Makes 1 loaf
Use the large holes of a box grater to shred the zucchini. The test kitchen’s preferred loaf pan measures
8½ by 4½ inches; if you use a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan,
start checking for doneness 5 minutes early. For our
free recipe for Zucchini Bread with Pistachios and
Orange, go to CooksIllustrated.com/aug14.
Sprinkling sugar over the batter produces a crisp crust.
together, compressing the crumb. Fortunately, the
coarsely grated squeezed squash produced a crumb
that was supermoist, more open, and significantly less
gummy. Plus, it wasn’t greasy at all. I’d stick with the
squeezed coarse shreds.
Now what about this loaf’s flavor? Here I was
pleasantly surprised. As low-key as zucchini may be,
I had feared that an overload would give the bread
a vegetal taste. But despite the significant amount,
the bread had a sweet, mildly earthy taste; mineral
or strong vegetal flavors were absent. It turns out
that by removing much of the moisture, I had
also removed some of the key compounds, called
Amadori compounds, responsible for zucchini’s
vegetal flavor, which are concentrated in the juice,
not the flesh.
I just needed to get rid of a remaining trace of
gumminess. I swapped a portion of the all-purpose
flour for whole-wheat flour, since the bran and
germ in whole-wheat flour allow it to absorb more
moisture than the all-purpose kind. I was gratified
to find that not only was this latest loaf no longer
sticky but it also boasted a nice coarseness from the
whole wheat. It just needed some complexity. No
problem: I simply switched from granulated sugar to
molasses-y brown sugar, increased the cinnamon to
1 tablespoon, and added nutmeg and vanilla.
With its light, moist crumb that’s low on oil and
chock-full of zucchini (and even boasts a whole-grain
element), this bread might even pass as a “health”
food. I just consider it the best zucchini bread I’ve
ever tasted.
Zuchinni Bread Layout.indd 23
1½ 1¼ 1/4 2
1½ ½
1½ 1
pounds zucchini, shredded
cups packed (8¾ ounces) brown sugar
cup vegetable oil
large eggs
teaspoon vanilla extract
cups (7½ ounces) all-purpose flour
cup (2¾ ounces) whole-wheat flour
tablespoon ground cinnamon
teaspoons salt
teaspoon baking powder
teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon ground nutmeg
cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
tablespoon granulated sugar
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat
oven to 325 degrees. Grease 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan.
2. Place zucchini in center of dish towel. Gather
ends together and twist tightly to drain as much liquid as possible, discarding liquid (you should have ½
to ⅔ cup liquid). Whisk brown sugar, oil, eggs, and
vanilla together in medium bowl. Fold in zucchini.
3. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour,
cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and
nutmeg together in large bowl. Fold in zucchini
mixture until just incorporated. Fold in walnuts, if
using. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle
with granulated sugar.
4. Bake until top bounces back when gently
pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out
with few moist crumbs attached, 65 to 75 minutes.
Let bread cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes.
Remove bread from pan and let cool completely on
wire rack. Serve.
Zucchini Bread with Walnuts and
Dried Cherries
Substitute cocoa powder for cinnamon and ground
cloves for nutmeg. Prepare bread with walnuts and add
¾ cup dried cherries, chopped, to batter with walnuts.
4/21/14 11:27 AM