On blueberries, zucchini, and dragon slime
A few years ago, a friend served me some blueberry-studded gingerbread that she had bought at a local bakery. It was fine, but the spices in the gingerbread really obscured the flavor of the blueberries. On the other hand, I find plain blueberry muffins boring and bland. While I’ve had delicious lime-blueberry muffins and lemon-blueberry pound cake, sometimes I want something more substantial — so I decided that someday I would create a recipe that was more flavorful and heartier than a muffin, but which would still let the blueberry flavor shine through.
I decided to try incorporating blueberries into zucchini bread, since blueberries and zucchini tend to be available at about the same time of year. I took my first stab at this recipe on a night when I knew I would be hanging out with three brothers — Nicholas, 5, Jeremy, 9, and Gabriel, 11 — who like to cook.
I measured out the dry ingredients and then got Nicholas to help me combine them, beating the eggs, adding the zucchini, and folding in the blueberries.
The batter was brown and green from the whole-wheat flour and the zucchini, and once we added the blueberries they created purple streaks. At this point, the batter looked truly disgusting! Indeed, it was the considered opinion of all present that we had created something that would end up in a hankie if a dragon with a bad head cold blew his nose. “It looks like dragon snot, doesn’t it?” I asked. “Dragon slime,” Nicholas replied, suggesting a more dignified, less offensive term. He is a good influence on me.
When we took the bread out of the oven, none of us could believe that such disgusting batter could turn into something that smelled and tasted so incredibly good. Another nice thing about this recipe is that it is relatively affordable to buy organic versions of all the ingredients — something I like to do anyway, but especially when I am cooking for kids.
While we were cooking, Nicholas asked me what zucchini tastes like. I told him that people usually eat it cooked, and that it tastes very good, but can taste very different depending on the recipe used. I added that raw zucchini doesn’t taste bad, but it sort of doesn’t taste like anything, and I asked him if he would like to try a small piece. At first he demurred, but after a while he decided to taste it. He ate a bite, thought about it for a minute, then said, “It tastes like water.”
“It does taste like water,” I agreed. Later, his mom told me that Nicholas doesn’t like zucchini, because it is — how can I put this nicely — a vegetable, but that he loved it in this bread. He asked for the bread at breakfast the next day, and again at snack time. I suspect that having had a hand in baking it made it taste extra-good.
I actually really like the texture of raw zucchini in a salad, and it takes up the flavor of salad dressing really well. (Though it’s worth tasting a raw zucchini before throwing it into a salad in case it’s old or tough or bitter.) But it’s hard to beat the flavor of zucchini in a cake. I hope you enjoy this. Just turn the lights down low or put on your sunglasses while the batter is at the disgusting stage!
Blueberry Zucchini Bread (a.k.a. Dragon Slime Bread)
Makes two loaves
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 1/4 cups blueberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You will need two loaf pans, but because of all the oil in this recipe there is no need to grease them.
In a mixing bowl combine the two types of flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir until everything is evenly distributed.
For the next step, I like to break each egg individually into a measuring cup or small bowl to make sure it’s good (i.e., doesn’t smell, the whites are clear, not cloudy, etc.) before adding all the eggs together into their large mixing bowl.
Place the eggs into a second, large mixing bowl and beat them until the yolks are completely indistinguishable and everything has become a pale yellow. Add the two cups of sugar and beat until well combined. Add the vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and orange zest. Beat until well combined. Add the zucchini and mix it in thoroughly.
Add half of the flour mixture into the wet mixture and beat until combined. When the first half of the dry mixture has been absorbed by the wet mixture, add the second half of the dry mixture and beat until well combined.
Now add the blueberries and fold them into the batter (i.e., not beating them into the mixture so much as moving them around in the batter by using your spoon or a rubber spatula to bring the bottom layer to the top over and over again) until they are evenly distributed throughout.
Distribute the batter as evenly as you can between the two loaf pans. Bake for approximately 50 to 60 minutes, but start checking the loaves after 45 minutes. When done, the loaves will be medium brown; when you test them with a toothpick or sharp knife, the toothpick or knife will come out clean (i.e., no wet batter will stick to it.)
Let the loaves cool enough to be able to slice them. Serve with a pat of butter on top.