This week was an experimental week. I wanted to dive into nostalgia and had a couple of courgettes in my fridge that needed using (zucchini and courgette, two names for the same thing. I blame the U.K.’s proximity to France). The stars aligned and zucchini bread came to be. The recipe came from an old church cookbook (God bless the community cookbook, poorly edited and indexed as they are). The header notes sold me on this particular recipe, something along the lines of – “I don’t remember where I got this recipe from, it could have been from the newspaper in the 70s”. What passion!
Anyway, the only fault I have with this recipe is that it calls for the batter to be split between two loaf pans, which I think is unnecessary since the resulting loaves are a little on the short side (it was pretty obvious this would be the case when I saw how shallow the tins were filled). On the next occasion, I’ll lop it all into one, extend the bake time (and maybe lower the temp just a smidge so the top doesn’t turn to charcoal before the inside bakes), and get a fuller loaf. The recipe is below but the next section is good – don’t skip it.
Retro Zucchini Loaf
This recipe came out of an old church cookbook, the recipe may have come out of the newspaper back in the day, maybe not. We will never know!
2 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup oil
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
DirectionsPreheat oven to 350℉ (180℃, fan assisted 160℃). Mix the zucchini, egg, oil, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Blend well and really get the zucchini mixed up with the rest of the wet ingredients. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in another bowl and add to the wet mixture. Stir until incorporated (and not any longer!). Pour the batter into 2 9×5″ loaf tins (or 1 tin and adjust timing). Pop in the oven and bake for approximately 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Now for a thinly veiled rant disguised as a lesson…
This zucchini bread recipe creates what is known as a quick bread. Quick bread is an American invention and this delightful invention is called a ‘quick bread’ because it comes together quickly unlike old-school yeasted bread. The complete history of quick bread appears to be controversial since researching the definition of what qualifies as a quick bread populated a Google search worth of Internet arguments. However, what is unquestioned-and-true is that a quick bread is leavened with a chemical leavener. Usually baking powder, sometimes other stuff. In America, we often have a quick bread at breakfast (imagine: banana bread, pumpkin bread, cornbread, muffins, scones) but a quick bread can be savory (imagine: beer bread, cheese and onion loaf, cornbread).
Now, the first time I made pumpkin bread in the U.K. it was explained to me that “this is a cake”. Ok, I can appreciate that pumpkin bread is new to lots of folks, they would have been expecting a yeast-leavened loaf of bread flavored with pumpkin. Touché. It’s cool to not know, it’s not cool to be condescending. After that fun exchange, I explained that sure, it’s a sweet loaf with a cake-like texture, but we call it a bread. At this point, it was gently explained to me that I was wrong… Like I was a heathen who just suggested everyone put their feet on the table during lunch.
So this is my attempt to put the information out there to the masses (knowledge is power!). A quick bread is not a cake. It has a different ratio of flour to fat than a cake. Let me illustrate:
Cakes vary, but as a general rule of thumb, they come down to a simple ratio –
1 part fat (butter, oil)
1 part sugar
Some egg(s), about equal to 1 part
Quick bread, on the other hand –
1 part fat
2 parts liquid (water, milk, etc.)
2 parts flour
Some egg(s), about equal to 1 part but depends on the quick bread
Chemical leavening (like baking powder)
Now for the mixing method –
With a quick bread, you mix the wet ingredients together, the dry ingredients together, then mix those together. A cake can be done in a number of ways and the manner in which you mix it together can change the kind of cake that comes out, for instance, the above ratio for cake is the same for both a sponge and a pound cake. It depends on how you mix. But that’s a different post entirely.
Right, having survived that you can now have the recipe.
Today’s beginner philosophy lesson brought to you by: Discourse analysis
This is more a tool of analysis, but its related to semantics and semantics is the philosophical study of meaning. When a person says “well it’s all just semantics” they’re probably talking about the meaning of words.
In our various cultures and sub-cultures, we use words very differently. For example, if I tell someone I like their kicks, ‘kicks’ probably refer to a colloquialism for their shoes, what I would call sneakers (and a British person would call trainers, can you see where this is headed?). Also, someone might think I like their karate chop-style kicks (which might also be true). The order of words is also included in this because word order is important (Gary baked a dog-shaped cake =/= a dog-shaped cake baked Gary). Zooming out a bit further, syntax is semantics-adjacent but equally important. When someone says “that dig was brutal” the subject might be ‘dig’ in which case it refers to a colloquialism about a harsh insult. But the subject might be ‘that dig’ wherein the noun is ‘dig’ and refers to an archaeological expedition that was particularly difficult.
Part of my own research is derived from discourse analysis. From this, you quickly learn that a simple sentence might have ten different meanings. You shouldn’t take for granted that you understand everything coming at you – the cool kids ask an annoying amount of questions!