Monday, August 15, 2011

Zucchini Bread - Smitten Kitchen Style

When I received my Roots and Shoots Farm CSA basket on Thursday, I made a commitment as to how I planned to use each piece of produce over the coming week.

The zucchini was going into zucchini bread. I made the rare confession of saying I had never made zucchini bread before. It is so ubiquitous, that it seems just a bit unfathomable that someone who loves to bake has been holding out this long on zucchini bread.

I wasn't expecting to hit a new recipe home run and figured that I would start my first experience with 'tried and true'. Something out of Smitten Kitchen would likely land me safely. Just get it done and over with. Lose my zucchini bread virginity with some predictability, minimize the thinking thus minimize the pain.

I did linger on the idea ever so slightly. Not surprisingly I made my Smitten Kitchen announcement out on Twitter just to test the soundness of my plan.

[ : If I wanted to make zucchini loaf, any reason why I just wouldn't make 's Why reinvent perfection?]

Clearly I was showing hesitation and was looking for some sort of approval. Twitter friend @hellokaitlin did what Kaitlin does best. Not let me off so easy.

[: because 's rivals 's. they are different, but both INCREDIBLE.]

She approved of Smitten Kitchen but brought my commitment into question by dangling the equally solid baking skills of Seven Spoons before me. She was right. I did need to look around just to be sure. After all, this was my first zucchini bread. The subtext of her message, possibly? - My recipe choice for my first zucchini bread is not a decision that should entered into without respectful thought.

I weighed the taste of chocolate and the taste of spice and realized that, although my choice had been hasty, cinnamon and nutmeg was the style of zucchini bread that I likely wanted for my first time.

For those familiar with her recipe, I did boldly add walnuts (1/2 cup), as well as cranberries (3/4 cup), raisins (1/4 cup) and chocolate chips (1/8 cup). Other than the optional questions, I mindlessly followed the recipe to a tee.

The verdict? The spice smells are intoxicating. It is the kind of bread that tastes great with a smear of butter and a cup of tea. It was great sharing it with friends fresh from the oven.

What did I learn? Well this was a bit of a surprise. I totally acquiesced to the iconic Smitten Kitchen when I approached my challenge and I shouldn't have. Not that it wasn't a beautiful and yummy bread. But it wasn't 'my bread'. Although I didn't plan to go at it that way, I realized that it actually mattered. To me. I didn't consider for a second the outcome. I just relied on the master. What is good for her, must be good for me. @hellokaitlin took a poke at my non-thinking and I opened one eye for a quick glance at an alternative. But really, my input was lame.

I love to bake and I love to tinker with recipes to suit my likes or perhaps those of my guests. I have so many things I want to do differently next time. Things I think I would have actually considered from the get go if I had just stopped to give it some thought. I want my nuts to be Brazil nuts. I want to grind them. I want to put in less flour. I want less cinnamon. I don't want any chocolate chips. I may just want raisins. I am still debating the cranberries - I did love them after all. And I just might use a cream cheese frosting to make it look more cake than bread.

The moral of the story? When losing your zucchini bread virginity, don't treat the experience carelessly. Sure, it is great to partner with someone with a lot of knowledge, but you need to have a say in it too. Contribute. Say what you like. Own the outcome. Thankfully, Smitten Kitchen did make my first time a very beautiful thing.

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