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Chocolate and zucchini belong together every summer

Recipe: Bread is a greatest hit from the early days of the blog

Dark chocolate brings extra richness to zucchini bread. Try this treat for brunch or dessert.

Dark chocolate brings extra richness to zucchini bread. Try this treat for brunch or dessert. Kathy Morrison

Three squash and ingredients
These squashes are 6 to 7 inches. I used most of two.

This recipe debuted on the blog in July 2018, just a few weeks after we started posting as Sacramento Digs Gardening. But I had been making it for years, often at the request of family members, friends or co-workers.

Sure, zucchini bread, a great way to use up those prolific squashes. There are a million recipes out there.  But this one – which I adapted from one in “Brilliant Food Tips and Cooking Tricks" by David Joachim – has a couple of twists that make it special.

One is the spices: Cinnamon, of course, but also ground cloves, which gives the flavor extra depth. Don’t skip them! And I use dark cocoa to heighten the chocolate flavor, though regular baking cocoa works fine.

The recipe also is very adaptable: You can leave out the chocolate chips and cocoa, or add some nuts or other mix-ins. I've baked it into muffins on a number of occasions. 

I also reworked it for a vegan friend, substituting a "flaxseed egg" (1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed mixed with 2-1/2 tablespoons water and allowed to rest for 5 minutes) for the egg, as well as agave nectar for the honey, and almond milk for regular milk.

One important instruction will keep the bread from being mushy: Pat dry the zucchini with paper or cloth towels after shredding it. Summer squash contains a lot of water, and this will help cut the liquid content.

Shredded zucchini and part of the squash
Pat the shreds to remove excess water.

Baseball bat-size zukes are drier, but they do have large seeds, so remove those before shredding the squash. Which reminds me: This recipe also works with crookneck squash (again, remove the larger seeds), pattypan or yellow straightneck.

The resulting bread is spectacular with a cup of coffee for a mid-morning break, or with a dollop of whipped cream for dessert. And fewer zucchini to worry about using!

Chocolate zucchini bread

Makes 1 loaf, about 10 slices

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups shredded zucchini (about two 6-inch squashes)

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)

1 egg (or use the flaxseed egg method noted above)

2 tablespoons canola or other neutral vegetable oil

2 tablespoons honey OR agave nectar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (regular or dark)

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Powdered sugar (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-5-inch (preferred) or 8-by-4-inch loaf pan.

Pat shredded zucchini dry with paper towels or a clean dishtowel. In a medium bowl, combine sugar, milk, egg, oil, honey or agave, and vanilla.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, salt and cocoa. Note: I add the cocoa by putting it through a wire mesh strainer to remove the lumps, but it's not required.

Chocolate zucchini bread and a strawberry on a yellow plate
Dense and moist chocolate zucchini bread.

Add the zucchini, the milk mixture and the mini chips to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened -- the batter will be thick. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of the pan. (You might get some melted chocolate chips on the pick -- that's OK.)

Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top, if desired.

Variations:

Non-chocolate zucchini bread: Omit the cocoa and chips, but otherwise follow the instructions above.

Mix-ins: For either chocolate or regular zucchini bread, stir in 1/2 cup shredded coconut or 1/2 cup chopped dried cherries or 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts when you add the zucchini. Bake as instructed above.

Muffins: Grease a 12-cup muffin pan. Divide batter between cups. Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes.

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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