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Extending summer a little while longer

By Jenna Cho

Publication: theday.com

Published September 04. 2013 7:00PM   Updated September 04. 2013 7:43PM

Nonononono. Summer stays. Winter goes. Let's all pretend Labor Day hasn't come and gone. Pretend summer's problems remain. It's too hot to cook! The zucchinis are blowing up in my garden!

So predictable, I know. But you know what? I don't care. 'Cause this thing I did with my crop of zucchini, it's that good. I keep clipping recipes for savory zucchini recipes -- zucchini gratin, zucchini butter, baked zucchini crisps. But I never get to those recipes, because chocolate is my weakness, and this here is the best chocolate cake I've ever made.

In my quest for the ultimate chocolate cake - spongy but not dry, moist but not heavy - I've tried a handful of other recipes. They were all good.

Adding sour cream, for instance, gave an airiness to the cake I hadn't yet discovered. Guinness added complexity. But there was always something lacking, something that didn't make me want to stop seeking out a better, more superior, recipe.

I never thought I'd find it in a green squash I could grow in my sleep.

Neglect in the heat of summer, only to return to a bounty. Sure, the zucchini were too large sometimes, the size of my arm, even, because I'm a half-hearted gardener. But they were always there, eager to please, ready to keep giving.

If you've never used zucchini to make cake or bread before, you'll be surprised by how the zucchini disappears into the bread. (Simplyrecipes calls this bread, but I think it tastes more like a cake. The crumb is loose, not densely packed, and all that's keeping it in the bread category is the fact that it was baked in a loaf pan.) You don't taste it, but you'll see flecks of green in your bread and it adds unbelievable moisture to the final product. Should you choose to hide from your kids the fact that there's a vegetable in there, just follow one of the Simplyrecipes commenters' advice and peel the zucchini before grating. THEY'LL NEVER KNOW.

I made this bread several times and gave the loaves away thinking there'd always be more. The last time I made them, I gave two away, then wrapped the remaining two in plastic wrap and foolishly left them on my kitchen table.

When I got home, my devil of a dog had helped himself to the cucumber kimchi I'd left out to ferment a little longer. And the two loaves were nowhere to be found. Gone. Plastic wrap and all. Not a crumb on the floor.

Not a bellyache to show for it. Damnit. Now I must make more. And eat it all before the dog has a chance to sneak away with it.

Chocolate zucchini bread

Adapted from simplyrecipes.com

Makes 1 loaf or 4 mini loaves (my mini loaf pans were 6 inches by 3.5

inches)

2 cups grated zucchini (about one medium-almost-large zucchini)

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (use natural unsweetened cocoa, not Dutch

processed)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup granulated white sugar

1 egg

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon instant espresso granules

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the loaf pans.

Grate zucchini, then leave in a sieve over a bowl to drain of excess moisture. If zucchini is on the dry side, soak zucchini in water, then let drain in the sieve.

Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl until well combined and with no remaining clumps.

In a large bowl, use that same whisk to beat together the sugar and eggs until smooth. Add the butter, instant espresso and almond extract. Whisk until smooth.

Add the shredded zucchini to the sugar and egg mixture. Add the flour mixture in portions, whisking to combine.

Pour batter into the loaf pans. Bake for 50 minutes in a large loaf pan, or about 25-30 minutes in four mini loaf pans. Insert a toothpick in the center of a loaf - if it comes out clean, the breads are ready.

Let cool, then remove from pans and let cool completely on a rack.

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