Whole Wheat Zucchini Tea Bread

In many ways, saying you’ve made some tweaks to a recipe for Zucchini Bread is akin to emerging from your laboratory to announce you’ve just invented the wheel. Recipes for Zucchini Bread abound — nearly every cookbook has one and these recipes are all very similar with only a few slight changes here and there. So, I do feel a little sheepish in detailing for you my “great discovery”.

Though plentiful enough to be ubiquitous or even notorious, some Zucchini Bread recipes are certainly a bit more imaginative than others. The less imaginative ones are seldom more than a thinly-veiled disposal plan for excess zucchini. Having found myself with excess zucchini more than once, this summer, I must admit I needed a disposal plan! Just one plant gave so much zucchini I not only had plenty to cook with but also had enough to freeze. Alas, when I’d used up all the freezer space I could afford for such a tasteless vegetable — not to mention all of my patience for grating, blanching, and then packing zucchini — I found myself reaching for a recipe to make use of what I no longer wanted to deal with.

Thinking as Daffy Duck, who — when stranded on a deserted island — said in exasperation to the wishing well, “If this does have to be my last resort, at least make it a nice resort,” I reasoned Zucchini Bread does not have to be a last resort. Perhaps with a good recipe plus a few tinkerings, I could create a recipe so tasty I might even grow zucchini just to enjoy several loaves of this stuff! Mine would be so stealthily savvy I would have to change its name! This would be no lowly quick bread, but a TEA bread!


For inspiration, I turned to one of my favorite cookbooks: “More-with-Less”. I bought it back when I was fresh out of college. Music degree in hand, I soon learned what it meant to be underemployed, underpaid, and sleep-deprived. Under those circumstances, a cookbook promising to teach me how to make good, nutritious food with LESS seemed perfect! Compiled by a very visionary, Mennonite woman in the mid-seventies, its pages are loaded with very sturdy, simple recipes. Along with recipes, however, are articles offering slightly dated but still relevant advice on how to shift the typical, meat-and-processed-foods-heavy diet of most Americans to a less wasteful and more nutritionally-sound, balanced diet.

Looking at the recipe for Zucchini Bread, I noticed the first thing that needed to go: 1 cup vegetable oil. Granted, this recipe was to make two loaves, but it seemed a tad overboard in the fat department for my own nutritional goals. I decided to cut the amount in half; replacing the other half with unsweetened applesauce. But — for extra flavor — I decided it’d be an interesting twist to use extra-virgin olive oil in place of vegetable oil. Olive oil adds a depth of flavor — not to mention healthier fats — even to dessert recipes. Since this recipe is so full of cinnamon and nuts, I knew the olive oil would not come on too strong, taste-wise.

I also noticed the recipe called for “3 cups all-purpose flour”. As you may know, my kitchen policy is to incorporate whole grains whenever possible. Since the bread would contain two cups of very moist and dense grated zucchini, I was afraid using 100% whole wheat flour would make it too heavy to rise. So, I used a 2-to-1 mix of whole wheat pastry flour (whole wheat flour that is ground so finely it’s nearly interchangeable with all-purpose flour) and all-purpose flour.

Whenever a recipe calls for nuts, I typically toast them — even if the recipe doesn’t ask me to. Toasting nuts heightens their flavor so you can actually use fewer of them in the recipe (reducing the calories). Plus, almost without fail, when someone tastes a recipe with IMG_1287toasted versus non-toasted nuts, they almost always comment, “I think my favorite part about the [bread] was the nuts.”

While you can go to the trouble of messing up a sheet pan only to stand by cautiously for 5-10 minutes making sure the nuts don’t burn, I prefer to go the easy route by toasting the nuts in the microwave. As long as you’re not having to toast more than a cup or two at once, just spread them out on a large microwaveable plate and microwave them on high for a minute at a time until you notice they smell irresistibly toasty. It’s still possible to burn them, this way, so be sure to stir them around after each minute. I’ve found hazelnuts, in particular, burn rather quickly. For this recipe, I chose to use pecans and walnuts. I toasted them together for two minutes. While they were cooling, I was mixing together the dry ingredients; then I chopped them to before beginning to mix the recipe together.

My final tweaking involved turning up the vanilla volume. The original recipe IMG_1286called for a whole tablespoon of vanilla extract, so I could tell they were shooting for maximum vanilla. Rather than dump the bottle into the batter, I decided it would make for deeper, truer vanilla flavor to add a vanilla bean. As it turns out, adding real vanilla to the batter made for a very pronounced vanilla taste. I mentioned in another post how this seemingly overly expensive ingredient has many uses, how you can make the most of it, and where you can find high quality vanilla beans. If you’d prefer, however, you can still use a tablespoon of a really good vanilla extract (not imitation vanilla) and the recipe will still turn out nicely.

Whole Wheat Zucchini Tea Bread
Makes 2 Loaves/24 Servings
Adapted from More With Less

    2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1 large vanilla bean
    3/4 cup granulated sugar
    3 large eggs
    1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 cups grated zucchini
    1/2 cup chopped pecans – toasted
    1/2 cup walnuts – toasted

    Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Spray two 8-inch bread pans with cooking spray.

    In a medium bowl, sift together the whole wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon.

    Using a small, sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and pulp using a teaspoon. In a large mixing bowl, combine the vanilla bean pulp and the granulated sugar; using fingers, grind the pulp evenly into the sugar until no lumps remain.

    To the sugar mixture, add the eggs, olive oil, applesauce, and vanilla extract; whisk until thoroughly combined. Stir in the grated zucchini and the flour mixture; fold in the chopped nuts. Pour into prepared pans; bake at 350-degrees for 1 hour (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, varies with pan size). Cool in pans on rack for 10-15 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely on rack. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.


I should mention most recipes ask you to peel the zucchini before grating it. I’ve never found this to be a useful step. Not only does the zucchini peel offer you even more fiber-y goodness, the little flecks of green are interesting and show that you’re not trying to hide the fact that this bread contains a vegetable!

Donning a happy halo of nutritional enlightenment, I’m happy to report all of my tweakings resulted not only in a tasty disposal plan for excess zucchini, but also serendipitously resulted in a reduction of 40 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving while adding an extra gram of fiber! According to my cookbook software, one slice is 167 calories, 9g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 5g monounsaturated fat (thanks to the e.v.o.o.), and 2g of fiber.

Admittedly, I made double batches of this bread twice, this summer — meaning I had FOUR loaves each time! Both times, the kitchen smelled incredible! Believe me when I tell you, it’s a lot easier to give people a loaf of Whole Wheat Zucchini Tea Bread than it is to hand them a three-pound zucchini and see the blank stare (“Need a paperweight?”). If you’re feeling generous and crafty, instead of baking two large loaves, you can pour the batter into muffin cups or mini loaf pans for convenient sharing (you will, of course, need to adjust the baking time for smaller pans). My office buddies certainly enjoyed the offering. A slice of this bread is an excellent accompaniment to a cup of coffee.


~ by Jason on September 16, 2010.

6 Responses to “Whole Wheat Zucchini Tea Bread”

  1. […] Read this article: Whole Wheat Zucchini Tea Bread « Tales of Thyme & Place […]

  2. LOVE zuchinni bread; I call it “Spice Bread”, and your new recipe sounds absolutely fabulous. Hope you both are well. Hugs, and love,

    • You know, I think I’ve heard of “Spice Bread”, but I don’t know that I’ve ever tried it. Interesting that someone would call it that, though… it’s as if you didn’t want anyone to know that they were actually eating zucchini! Love to you too!

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lisa Chan-Simms, Grains. Grains said: Whole Wheat Zucchini Tea Bread « Tales of Thyme & Place http://bit.ly/dwhJk9 […]

  4. Ahah, the change in name definitely makes this bread much more unique ;] But this does sound really delicious, the extra tweaks you’ve made sound like they would add an extra depth of flavour. I like the green.

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