During the long, hot days of summer, zucchini vines produce fruit with a determination that can be downright frightening. Even a few vines will provide all the fresh zucchini most families can use, along with enough surplus to keep the neighbors provisioned as well. Freezing excess zucchini for later use is one way to cope. The thawed zucchini can be used as a vegetable side dish or for baking.
Zucchini in Baking
Zucchini's neutral flavor and moist flesh make it a versatile baking ingredient. It can be used to add moisture and nutrition to a variety of baked goods, including cakes, muffins, quick breads and yeast breads. For those who favor healthy treats, zucchini can also be used to replace a portion of the eggs and fat in many recipes. Some recipes use the zucchini freshly grated with all its moisture, while others suggest pressing or squeezing out some of the liquid from the squash.
Fresh Vs. Frozen
Either fresh or frozen zucchini can be used in most recipes, but sometimes frozen zucchini requires an adjustment. Freezing causes the liquid inside the zucchini's cell walls to freeze. The resulting ice occupies more volume than the original liquid, causing the cell walls to rupture. When the zucchini is thawed, moisture seeps out of the ruptured cells and must be drained off. The result is extra-dry shreds of zucchini. In some recipes this is an advantage and improves the texture, but in others you might need to replace the lost moisture to maintain the correct texture.
Zucchini in Cakes, Muffins and Quick Breads
Cakes, muffins and quick breads all use zucchini in much the same way, as a moistening and softening ingredient. The zucchini is sometimes added to the finished batter, and sometimes added to the wet ingredients before the dry ingredients are stirred in. If you're using frozen zucchini, squeeze out any excess moisture before adding the squash to your mixing bowl. Gently stir in the zucchini until it's just mixed. Don't overmix quick breads or muffins or they'll toughen and have large tunnels when they're baked.
Zucchini in Yeast Breads
Although most zucchini bread is actually a loaf cake or quick bread, fresh or frozen zucchini can also be used in yeast breads. It adds nutrition and moisture, as it does in muffins or quick breads. Shredded zucchini gives white bread an off color, so it's best used in whole wheat, rye or multi-grain breads. If you're using freshly shredded zucchini, reduce the recipe's liquid by 1/4 cup for each cup of zucchini. If you're using frozen, squeeze it as dry as possible before adding it to the recipe, and don't reduce the recipe's liquids.
- The Professional Pastry Chef; Bo Friberg
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