Monday Must Have: Baking Illustrated & Zucchini Bread

I love a good deal. Give me a sale that includes a "buy one, get one free" promotion and I'm there. I know that it's actually "buy two and each one is half price", but I like to see the word free--you just feel like you are getting a great deal.

Today is your lucky day. The Monday Must Have is not only ONE awesome "must have", but TWO! The first is a cookbook that every baker should have in their collection. If you have ever read a Cook's Illustrated Magazine and liked it, then you will LOVE this book by the same editors, called Baking Illustrated.

This cookbook is FANTASTIC!

Let me say that again. This cookbook is FANTASTIC!

The entire cookbook is all about baking (my personal favorite kind of cookbook) and every recipe has been tested by the good people at the America's Test Kitchen. And not only has each recipe been tested and developed to be the best, the editors included notes for each recipe about why they decided on certain ingredients or mix methods. I can't tell you enough about how awesome it is to try recipes from this book.

Last week, we in the Pacific Northwest, had a major HEAT wave come through. I actually didn't mind the heat, and in fact I prefer the heat to cold weather any day--but we also have A/C and so it was tolerable. Because of the several hot days we had, our zucchini crop has taken on a life of its own and was growing faster than we could pick it. I'm always looking for good zucchini recipes and so yesterday, I did a little research in my library of over 200 cookbooks and found one of the best recipes for Zucchini Bread I've had in a long time--in fact, maybe ever. From here on out, this is my go-to zucchini bread recipe. This Zucchini Bread recipe is the second part of the Monday Must Have, which I will share with you.

So good.

So delicious.

So addicting.

See what I mean? Enough with the temptations, let's get to the recipe. I only made a couple of alterations to the original recipe and noted them in orange.

Zucchini Bread
Adapted from Baking Illustrated, pgs 29-30

Yields = (1) 9-inch loaf

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 pound zucchini, washed and dried, ends and stems removed, cut in half lengthwise and seeded if using large zucchini, each half cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped coarse *I used pecans because most recipes call for walnuts and they were so good, I don't think I'll ever go back to walnuts in zucchini bread.
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup plain yogurt *I used lemon yogurt, since I didn't have plain yogurt on hand. This worked well and I will stick to the lemon yogurt in future batches.
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 Tbsp. juice from a lemon
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees f. and adjust oven rack to middle position. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

2) Shread zucchini using a food processor, using the shreading blade. Transfer shreaded zucchini to a strainer, toss zucchini with 2 Tbsp. of sugar, then place strainer over bowl, set at least 2 inches over the bowl and allow to drain for about 30 minutes.

3) Meanwhile, spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. *Jill's Note: Don't skip this step! The toasted pecans added another level of flavor to this bread--so yummy! Transfer the nuts to a cooling rack and cool completely. Transfer the nuts to a large bowl; add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk until combined. Set aside.

4) Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice, and melted butter in a medium bowl until combined. Set aside.

5) After the zucchini has drained, squeeze the zucchini with several layers of paper towels to absorb excess moisture. Stir the zucchini and the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture until just moistened. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth surface with a rubber spatula.

6) Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

I still have a ton of zucchini that needs to be used, and I'll be making several more loaves of this FANTASTIC zucchini bread today.