With all the abundance of zucchini we’re still receiving from the garden, I’ve been baking loaves and loaves of zucchini bread to put away in the freezer. Naturally, experiments and adaptations want to work their way into all the sprinkling, measuring and stirring. Yesterday as I geared up for an afternoon of baking, 20lb. box of zucchini in-tow, these were some of the variations I came up with: chocolate and olive oil (a dense, dark crumb with a smooth and round flavor), strawberry-apricot kernal (some apricot varieties produce edible kernals – most include the toxin, cyanide – similar in appearance and taste to almonds and there are 2 gallon jars of the things sitting in the pantry with no one using them; plus we had some strawberry pulp leftover from the makings of syrup), and gingerbread.
Now, with the weather doing its dance of transition from summer to fall with the dizziness of summer activity and heat reeling, only to dip and sway into the first breezes bringing on autumn’s clear air, the thought of fall’s harvest and quintessential spiced foods warms both my heart and my belly. And when I saw this first recipe of the season I knew it was time to enter fall’s graceful swing and break out the warming spices like nutmeg, cloves and ginger.
So it’s no surprise that I was really looking forward to taking a bite of the zucchini gingerbread with all its dense, rich, pungent and molasses glory. The oven was hot and baking away, the timer went off and upon testing the loaf for doneness it felt firm, with no give in the center (a toothpick test would have been approriate, but we didn’t have any in the kitchen.) I pulled the bread out of the heat and set it on a cooling rack before attempting to free it from the pan. 20 minutes later, to my horror, it had sunken to a pit of muddy depression and when I tried to take it out of the pan it began to mold around my hand like spineless putty. I flopped it back into the pan to keep its shape, cursing myself and began to think what I could do to rescue it. It had already cooled too much and the starches had settled in too well to think of popping it back in the oven as it was. So it didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion that the only thing to do with it was turn it into biscotti!
I turned the oven back on and up to about 400 degrees (which I did by setting it at 415, I learned too late that their oven consistently runs cooler than temp), and while it was pre-heating I began slicing the turned-out loaf with a long, serrated bread knife into 1/2″ thick slices width-wise, which I then cut in half lengthwise to give the long, dippable biscotti shape. Think quick and intentional slices when cutting through doughey bread as it starts to flop over as some of the gooiness wants to run out from the middle. Arranged in a single layer on a pan coated with the slightest bit of oil, I slid them into the oven for 12 minutes before taking them out to flip them over once and returned them to the oven for an additional 12 minutes. Now, one thing I like to do that’s a bit unconventional for baking (usually I only do this with my granola) is to cut the oven off when it’s almost done, and leave it inside as the oven cools down. Then a few hours later, or the next morning I come back to perfectly cooled and crsip granola which has set in the little crunchy clumps I like in my morning bowl. Why not try the same method with the biscotti?
It worked like a charm. When I rolled out of bed this morning and put the kettle on for a cup of tea, I opened the oven and to my satisfaction, a pan of perfectly crisp, browned zucchini gingerbread biscotti was there. And it pairs perfectly with a good cup of chai.
Zucchini Gingerbread Biscotti
-2 cups white flour
-3 cups whole wheat flour
-1 Tb. baking soda
-3/4 Tb. baking powder
-1 tsp. salt
-ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves
-1 1/3 cups molasses
-1/3 cup brown sugar
-2 ts. vanilla extract
-3 cups shredded zucchini
-2 tsp. vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 and grease 2 bread pans. Whisk the dry ingredients together and in another bowl crack the eggs and mix with the molasses and sugar, then add the rest of the wet ingredients. Fold into the dry mix, adding a little water if necesary to form a good batter.
Bake for 30 minutes or until just done. Let cool in pan for about 20 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, turn the oven up to 400.
Once the bread has cooled some, turn it out of the pans and slice lengthwise/widthwise at 1/2″. Slice these in half for slender biscotti that will dip into a mug. Brush these with just a dab of oil and bake for 12 minutes, flip once and bake another 12 minutes, checking every few minutes for doneness. Turn off the oven and leave the tray of biscotti in it to harden with the cooling. Enjoy!