Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Molasses-Flavored Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread with Molasses

Concerning zucchini bread, I had 2 long-term goals that I wanted to achieve: one was to come up with a recipe of light-tasting breakfast zucchini bread, and the other was making one that tastes just like the very first zucchini bread I tasted in Pennsylvania about 20 years ago. Now that the first goal is almost satisfactory met, I’m up to the experiment for the second goal.

This time I replaced half of the amount of sugar in my Breakfast zucchini bread recipe with dark molasses. This idea had been in my mind for a long time while I was going through the repeated experiments in the past. The very first zucchini bread I tasted in the U.S. was very moist, and I had been wondering if molasses or honey was added. Also, another recipe I found on the net seemed to be supportive of my idea. At least, someone already tried it, which means it’s not a totally crazy idea, right? So, with the Brer Rabbit molasses I bought last winter, I gave it a try.

The result --- Yes, the texture turned out to be a little closer to the first zucchini bread I had, but not exactly. More than anything, the one in Penn. didn’t have the strong smell of molasses like this. So definitely, dark molasses was not it. This molasses-flavored zucchini bread was not bad at all, though… Too bad I didn't have any raisins to add. It must have been perfect with raisins.

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My zucchini bread story -part 2 –

It was more than 15 years after my first encounter with zucchini bread that I actually baked one myself in Japan, using a recipe I got from an American friend of mine. I don’t remember if I followed the recipe perfectly at my first try—I only remember that I was so happy about making one myself, even though it didn’t taste like the one I had in Pennsylvania.

From the very beginning, however, the amount of sugar in the recipe scared me, -- 1 cup sugar for just a little more than 1 cup flour ! -- so I started cutting it down right away. Then the problem came in… I realized strange bitterness or harshness stayed on my tongue for a long time after eating the courgette bread. I’m not sure if I can call it ”bitterness.” It was not like that of bitter gourd… it was more like what happens to your tongue after eating too much pineapples , but not exactly the same.

The disturbing harshness became more apparent as I reduced the amount of sugar to make it “healthier.” I had no idea where it came from. Zucchini? Baking powder? Spices? Or possibly, the walnuts? Or the Japanese salt that contained more bittern (nigari) because I always added a pinch of salt? I kept experimenting, changing the amount of ingredients each time, except for increasing the amount of sugar. I only thought about cutting down the amount of the thing that was causing the harshness, not hiding the problem with increased sweetness. But nothing worked. My zucchini bread always had disturbing harshness!

After coming back to Kochi, I continued the experiment whenever zucchinis were available, but no progress --- or it got even worse. One day I brought my zucchini bread to a Japanese friend who wanted to taste it, then she instantly gave me a negative reaction after one bite. The problem was, according to her, “Definitely too much sugar and absolutely no zucchini flavor, and the terrible harshness.”

She insisted that since vegetable was used as the main ingredient, it HAD TO be a healthy bread with noticeable veggie flavor, otherwise there was no meaning in adding zucchini. Vanilla extract and cinnamon must be reduced, too, she said, because it must have killed the zucchini flavor. And the harshness must be removed by all means, she said. So there my struggle got worse. Imagine making a courgette bread cutting down all those ingredients! That made the annoying harshness more apparent.

All the zucchini bread recipes I found on the net didn’t say anything about the bitterness or harshness. I asked around on the net, but the answers I got were “I’ve never had such a problem.” "I don't know what bitterness you're talking about." I felt overwhelmed, but now that there’s someone else who’s waiting for the result of my experiment, I couldn’t give it up. Finally the mere sight of zucchini started causing a pain in my stomach. I’m not kidding.

I could have just told my friend, “That’s the way zucchini bread is. If you don’t like it, just don’t eat it.” However, I myself wanted a mild-tasting, less-sweet zucchini bread that would be good for breakfast, so I just didn’t want to give up.

Then last summer, I came up with an idea when I was making bitter-gourd stir fry. From several cooking magazines, I had learned that rubbing a bitter gourd with salt would reduce its bitterness. Can’t it work for my zucchini bread, if the bitterness/harshness was coming from the zucchini? What if I rub the zucchini with salt before grating it? I gave it a try…
… and IT WORKED! :D

Finally, I made a zucchini bread with less amount of sugar, oil and spices with no harsh aftertaste!
When I tried it with a bowl of tomato soup, as I had dreamed about, I was simply overjoyed.

To be cont'd.


Anonymous said...

Obachan, congratulations on your success after such determination. Fifteen years is a long time to dream about any food, lol.

There are so many recipes for zucchini bread out there that I'm not surprised about your being overwhelmed. I always thought it was the zucchini itself that made the bread so moist. I wish I'd seen your post while I was at home - I don't remember what is in my recipe. The only question I have regarding your choice of molasses is if you tried using some brown sugar along with the white sugar to give it a similar but lighter taste. Of course, I don't know if brown sugar is available to you, so I hope my suggestion doesn't frustrate you more! 

Posted by Annie

Anonymous said...

It could be that instead of molasses, light or dark corn syrup was used to sweeten the bread. 

Posted by Kumiko

Anonymous said...

> Annie --- Thanks : ) I once thought that it would make zucchini bread moist if I didn’t drain or squeeze out the excess moisture from grated zucchini. But when I tried that, the bread didn’t rise and turned out… how should I describe it?... rubbery? or rice-cake-like? anyway, it was not the texture I wanted.
I haven’t tried using brown sugar yet. Yes, I do have brown sugar so I can give it a try : ) Thanks for the suggestion.

> kumiko --- Welcome and thanks for your comment : ) I thought about that, too. Or could be honey? Anyway, I’m going to try one by one. If I cannot try all the ideas in this zucchini season, I’ll do the rest next year.  

Posted by obachan

Anonymous said...

I looked up an old recipe for zucchini bread and it called for 3 eggs, 1 cup of oil, 1 1/2 cups of sugar,2 cups of unpeeled zucchini, 2 tsp vanilla, 3 c. flour,1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, dash of nutmeg, dash of cloves 1 cup chopped nuts, 3/4 cup raisins and the grated rind of 1 orange. Bake at 350F for 50-60 min.. MAKES 2 loaves!!!!!! Cut the recipe in half for one....No molasses, but the oil makes for a moist bread..... 

Posted by Carlyn

Anonymous said...

Hi Carlyn,
I once tried an almost identical recipe except it didn’t call for the orange rind. Yes, it was moist…but not the same way as the one I had in Penn. Thanks anyway, though. 

Posted by obachan

Anonymous said...

hi Obachan, I made my zucchini bread with your recipe..except i did not use the salt method and i omitted the baking soda... It was delicious. Thank you.
I used young zucchini about 6-7 inches not those giant ones and also I cannot eat baking soda as it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Maybe you're like me -- sensitive to the taste of baking soda??? 

Posted by keona

Anonymous said...

Hi keona,
I made zucchini bread a few times using baking powder only, with absolutely no baking soda, and still had the same problem. I never had any problem with baking soda and I use it a lot when making things like pancakes, gingerbread cake, ginger cookies, etc.  

Posted by obachan

Anonymous said...

What a timely post, Obachan! Every summer, I too have been on a zucchini bread quest. My zucchini from our garden have just started coming in, we had our first taste last week, and now they are coming in so fast, I don't know what to do with them. Enter zucchini bread! I am sure to try out your molasses version. Thanks for posting it :-) 

Posted by JMom

Anonymous said...

Hi JMom,
Glad that my post gave you an idea! Enjoy baking! :D 

Posted by obachan

Anonymous said...

you were mentioning that you were striving for a zucch bread like the one you first had - you should try adding some buttermilk or yogurt to the recipe you currently use. you can reduce the sugar and avoid the bitter flavor. I am guessing that your original bread had buttermilk in it - not a whole lot, maybe just a cup to two loaves.... if you are talking about PA Dutch cooking at least...

obachan said...

Buttermilk! That must be it! And yes, the place where I had my first experience with zucchini bread was near the Lancaster county -- IIRC. But I could be wrong. :P

Thanx. Next time I'm going to use buttermilk -- or buttermilk and honey. (Of course I'm going to have to use buttermilk substitute idea: vinegar + milk. I can't buy fresh buttermilk around here.)

Anonymous said...

I just saw on cooks.com, under their breads listing, an Amish Friendship Bread, which is made with a starter. Since your first taste of zucchini bread was in Amish Country could this be your answer to your quest?