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Spice up low-fat baking with zucchini bread

There's nothing like baking to make you feel cozy inside, and quickbreads are rich, moist and easy to prepare. A busy schedule doesn't have to stand in the way of fresh baked goods. Quickbreads employ perhaps the simplest method in all of baking, with no sifting or rising required. These breads, unlike yeast breads, don't need time to ferment and rise — they are quick! Whether muffins or loaves, the technique is basically a two-bowl method. The wet ingredients are mixed in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another, and then the two are combined by hand just until mixed. There should be some small lumps left in the batter, which will bake out.

With nutrition experts urging us to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, quickbreads can provide nutrient-rich baking options that are perfect any time of day. Baking with vegetables produces some of our favorite treats from the oven. Using fruits and vegetables when baking adds vitamins, minerals and fiber to the diet and can also help to reduce dietary fat.

Shredded, unpeeled zucchini is the signature ingredient in our Spiced Pineapple Zucchini Bread; in this version, dried pineapple adds a unique flavor, and chopped almonds a delightful crunch. Unsweetened applesauce replaces the fat traditionally used to impart moistness, and lite silken tofu replaces the eggs that normally bind traditional baked goods. In the enlightened approach to baking, we use whole-grain flour, enriched soy milk and sugar that is only slightly refined (evaporated cane juice). Our Spiced Pineapple Zucchini Bread is rich-tasting, moist and delicious without all of the artery-clogging ingredients that are common in traditional recipes.


SPICED PINEAPPLE ZUCCHINI BREAD

2 1/3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

2/3 cup oat bran

1/3 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. nonaluminum baking powder

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1 cup diced dried pineapple

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1 (12.3-oz.) package lite silken tofu

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 cups evaporated cane juice

1/2 cup enriched soy milk

1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract

2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray two 9-by-4-inch loaf pans with olive oil. In a large bowl, combine the flour, oat bran, cornmeal, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Stir in the dried pineapple and chopped almonds. Set aside. Place the tofu in a food processor and blend until smooth, about one minute. Add applesauce, evaporated cane juice, soy milk and vanilla. Quickly fold the tofu mixture into the dry ingredients and add the shredded zucchini. Do not overbeat. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 60 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Set aside to cool. Makes two 9-by-4-inch loaves, 12 slices per loaf.

Enlightened Spiced Pineapple Zucchini Bread

Nutrition Analysis: per serving

Protein: 4 g, Carbohydrates: 34 g, Fiber: 3 g, Fat: 2 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Calcium: 42 mg, Sodium: 188 mg. Calories: 162; from Protein: 10 percent, from Carbohydrates: 79 percent, from Fat 11 percent.

Traditional Spiced Pineapple Zucchini Bread

Nutrition Analysis: per serving

Protein: 4 g, Carbohydrates: 34 g, Fiber: 2 g, Fat: 13 g, Cholesterol: 27 mg, Calcium: 45 mg, Sodium: 232 mg. Calories: 262; from Protein: 6 percent, from Carbohydrates: 51 percent, from Fat: 44 percent.

Notes on Ingredients

Whole-Wheat Pastry Flour — Finely milled, this is the preferred whole-grain flour for cakes and quickbreads. Available in health-food stores.

Oat Bran — A fiber-rich bran derived from oats that adds a distinctive, hearty flavor to baked goods. Available at health-food and specialty stores.

Nonaluminum, Double-Acting Baking Powder — Available nationwide at health-food stores and many supermarkets.

Lite Silken Tofu — A low-fat tofu with a creamy, custardlike consistency and a neutral flavor. Widely available in aseptic packages in supermarkets and health-food stores.

Evaporated Cane Juice — Unbleached and minimally processed sugar. Light in color and granulated, this more wholesome alternative can be substituted in a 1-to-1 ratio for refined white sugar.

Lite Soy Milk — 1 percent fat.


Marie Oser is a food writer and author of "More Soy of Cooking" (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., $16.95). She can be reached at (www.veggiechef.com). Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.