If you’ve ever grown summer squash, I’m sure you can relate when I tell you that we have long since passed the moment when our zucchini plants began producing more than we could reasonably consume.
We planted two black beauty zucchini and a patty pan squash in our garden this Summer, hoping to increase our yield after a lackluster (i.e. zero) harvest last year. Summer squash is pretty easy to grow, but must be physically pollinated – either via bees or other pollinators, or by hand – and I suspect that between the lack of thriving pollinators in our treeless tract home set smack dab in the middle of corn fields, and the wildly unpredictable North Carolina climate, our poor, single potted zucchini plant didn’t stand a chance. At least through natural means.
This year, in a new house (and new growing climate), I was determined to produce a more successful backyard garden. I tended to my plant babies – squash, tomatoes, peas, peppers, strawberries, blueberries, and lots of herbs – religiously, spending the first bit of every morning watering (strategically because of the drought) and generally fussing over them. Maybe it was the super long, languid, Northern summer days, with sunlight stretching late in the evening, or the record warm temperatures, or all that good, new organic vegetable soil, or my good gardening vibes, or all things combined, but they rewarded us in spades, with dozens (hundreds! thousands!) of fruit.
The zucchini just. kept. growing. We were harvesting at least one a day, sometimes two or three, and after a few weeks, I surrendered, and turned half a dozen zucchini into two batches of this dark chocolate olive oil zucchini bread, saving some of the abundance of this season for the cooler, cozier days to come.
For this chocolate zucchini bread, I adapted my very favorite “healthy” cupcake recipe – these chocolate zucchini muffins – though I made a few small changes, namely the addition of olive oil.
If olive oil is a new-to-you baking ingredient, I hope you won’t be dissuaded; the somewhat grassy, fresh taste of olive oil works in sweet harmony with the zucchini and rich, dark chocolate. It’s not a particularly strong flavor here, and certainly doesn’t overpower what is ultimately a wonderfully flavorful, moist and delicious sweet chocolate spice bread. In fact, I suspect you might not even notice, just as you might be remiss to pick out the main ingredient, save for the subtle green bits speckled throughout this dark mahogany bread (and only if you look closely while mid-devour).
You’ll want to be sure to use natural unsweetened cocoa here, as opposed to Dutch-processed cocoa. The natural cocoa – a base – reacts with the other ingredients, acting as a leavener, and without the cocoa, you’d lose some of the rise, resulting in a denser bread. I think you could also use melted (unrefined) coconut oil in place of the olive oil, and could certainly stick to plain old vegetable or canola oil.
The recipe as written makes two generous 9-by-5-inch loaves (I love these pans), but you can easily halve the recipe, or divide into mini loaf pans, which make lovely thank you or holiday gifts (you’ll want to reduce the baking time a bit). This zucchini bread, as with most quick breads, also freezes well (which is good for using up all those overzealous zucchini!).
I often top the batter with chopped bittersweet chocolate, just before popping these in the oven, because… chocolate. If you’re impatient, and dive in before it cools, the crumbled chocolate layer creates something akin to frosting across the crackled top of each slice. Adorned or not, I think you’ll adore this sweet, chocolate-y bread/cake, full of zucchini (though you’d never know it!). Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in the garden, harvesting the rest of our still burgeoning squash…
- 3-1/2 cups zucchini, grated
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
- 1/2 tsp espresso powder
- 1-1/2 cups pure cane sugar
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- optional: 2 oz dark (bittersweet) chocolate (60-70% cacao), chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two 5x9-inch loaf pans with butter or baking spray. Set aside.
- Grate the zucchini. You want the zucchini to be moist (these keeps the zucchini bread tender and moist), but if the zucchini seems particularly wet (dripping), wrap the grated zucchini in paper towel or cheesecloth, and very gently squeeze to release some of the extra liquid.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder until well-combined and lump-free. If the cocoa powder is especially clumpy, sift it before adding to the other dry ingredients. Set aside.
- In another large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, olive oil and egg until very smooth and completely combined. Stir in the vanilla followed by the zucchini. Working in two batches, gently fold in the flour mixture, stirring just until combined.
- Divide between the prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle with the chopped chocolate, if using. Bake on the middle rack for 40-50 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the loaf pans on a baking rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans, then let cool completely before slicing.