Mint and Basil Zucchini Bread

Butter, eggs and herbsToday’s baking took a complete turn when I ran into a mint and basil herbed zucchini bread on my way to a rye crumble bars recipe.

Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours (2010) has been on my shelf for years, but I’ve only recently started appreciating how interesting yet accessible the recipes are. Good to the Grain has been reviewed beautifully, enthusiastically and somewhat stubbornly over the years, and I’m sorry it has taken me this long to start working my way through it.

The book is set out in chapters by type of whole grain flour: whole-wheat, amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, kamut, multigrain, oat, quinoa, rye, spelt and teff. Boyce explains:

I wanted this book to be inspirational but also very practical. That’s why the chapters that follow are organized by type of flour. Many of the whole-grain flours called for here may be difficult to find in your local stores… and they can have a short shelf life unless they are stored properly… This way, when you discover a bag of spelt flour at your grocery store or teff flour at an Ethiopian market, you can flip to the relevant chapter and figure out what to do with it. You can learn about the flavors of each flour and how it works with other ingredients, then choose from a handful of recipes that use it. If you like that flour, you can bake your way through the other recipes in that chapter and use up the whole bag.

I love her recognition of how people will begin experimenting with these new ingredients, and the way in which the book helps you to learn about and understand a new flour by encouraging you to test it out in a variety of recipes.

This is why I have had a bag of wholemeal rye flour in my pantry for the past few weeks, waiting to be used.

I figured I would start with a chapter that included a few recipes I wanted to try: soft rye pretzels, rustic rye dough (a base for galettes and tarts), maple danishes and the rye crumble bars that led me to take the book off the shelf this afternoon. We have a lot of jam around here these days, and I wanted to incorporate some into a sweet treat for the weekend. But that went out the window when I ran into a zucchini bread in the rye chapter that would not only use up the two zucchinis remaining in our fridge, but also make a dent in the mint and yogurt before we went away for the weekend. Basil? Check. Ours has been surviving beautifully all summer with very little attention (but I try not to tempt fate by saying that out loud). The only thing we were missing was wheat germ, so I substituted a bit more flour.

The recipe asks you to melt the butter first, and leave the chopped herbs to infuse while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Beyond that, it’s an easy quick bread that comes together without any fuss.

Butter infusing with herbsDuring zucchini season, this is the perfect way to use up a few of the gems you picked up last weekend with every intention to work them into meals throughout the week. Grated zucchini adds moisture and color to the bread and replaces some of the fat and sugar in traditional quick breads.

Grated zucchini

Dough in panNot that you’ll miss them. This bread is delicious, and the rye flour adds what Boyce calls a ‘mild and slightly milky’ flavor. This is not the dessert-type zucchini bread that I grew up with, though, so be prepared. The mint and basil play off the more traditional version, while bringing in a totally unexpected taste of summer. Boyce says she likes hers with a bit of butter and a pot of mint tea. I think a schmear of cream cheese in the morning might work well too.

Out of the oven
LoafNo matter what time of day you tuck in, I hope you like it as much as we do.

Mint and Basil Zucchini Bread
Adapted slightly from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain (2010)

Note: I used plain flour, which has less gluten and resulted in a denser bread than I would have liked. Boyce calls for all-purpose flour, so if you’re in the U.S., use that. For those elsewhere, I think I’ll try a combination of plain and strong flour in the future.

Makes 1 loaf

Butter and herbs
1 stick (115g) unsalted butter
about 12 basil leaves
about 8 mint leaves

Dry mix
1 cup (115g) wholegrain rye flour (Boyce says to use dark rye if you can’t find wholegrain)
1 1/4 cup (175g) all-purpose flour (see headnote)
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2.5g) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (2.5g) kosher salt

Wet mix
1/2 pound (230g) zucchini, grated on the largest holes of a box grater
1/2 cup (115g) plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
2 medium eggs

Pre-heat oven to 350 F / 180 C and position the rack in the middle. Grease a standard bread loaf tin with butter.

Melt the butter gently in a pan on the stove. When melted fully, remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped mint and basil leaves to infuse while you prepare the remainder.

Sift together both flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Place any bits of flour that remain in the sifter into the bowl (if you do not have a sifter, whisk dry ingredients to mix completely).

Combine grated zucchini, yogurt and eggs in a medium mixing bowl and stir or whisk thoroughly. Scrape the infused butter into the wet mixture and stir together.

Pour the zucchini mixture into the dry ingredients, and gently fold together until just combined. Do not overwork the batter. Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake in pre-heated oven for 60-70 minutes, rotating the pan after 30 minutes. Boyce says: The cake should be dark golden-brown and spring back when lightly touched; a skewer inserted into the center should come out clean.

When the bread is done, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn onto a cooling rack until cooled completed. Wrapped well in plastic, the bread will keep for up to 3 days. As the flavors meld, the bread will actually improve after a day or so.

Enjoy with a pot of mint tea.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s