Spiced Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze

In most parts of the country, it's finally summer!  Although we don't seem to have quite gotten the memo here in Minnesota though.  Today was rainy and pretty chilly for June, I thought.  But maybe that's just because I am so used to triple digits from June to September...

Anyway, when your garden starts producing more than you can possibly handle, or if you get a little over-enthusiastic at the farmers market, what happens?  Do you let stuff go to waste?  Freeze it?  One thing I like to do is make bread, especially when it is unseasonably cool outside!

Zucchini, carrots, apples or berries all make wonderful quick breads that are fairly nutritious and quite delicious.  For this recipe, I'm combining shredded zucchini with spices and dates to make a moist, flavorful loaf that makes a wonderful tea-time snack.  I used a simple cream cheese glaze that I think works nicely with the spiced loaf, but if you prefer to leave the loaf plain, the flavors are certainly substantial enough to stand on their own.

For the bread:
  • 1 C pitted dates
  • 1/2 C boiling water
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 lb zucchini (4 small)
  • 1 C all purpose flour
  • 1 C white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 C packed brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 C plain Greek yogurt
  • splash of vanilla extract (about 1-2 tsp?)
For the glaze:
  • 2 Tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 oz powdered sugar
  • splash of milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place a rack in the middle position.  Lightly grease an eight-inch loaf pan and set aside.

To make the zucchini bread, the first step that should be taken is to chop up the dates.  You should have medium-sized chunks.

Then combine the hot water, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and chopped dates in a small bowl.  Make sure the dates are all covered by the water, because the combination of hot water and baking soda will help to rehydrate them a bit and soften the tough outer bits.

Next, lop the ends off of your zucchinis.  Then, using the large holes on a box grater, shred them.  If you were to leave them just like that, you would have way too much moisture in your bread and a soggy mess.  

Nobody likes soggy bread, so squeeze out all the moisture by wrapping your zucchini shreds in a few layers of paper towels (you should probably do this in about three batches) and squeezing as hard as you possibly can.  This is very relaxing, especially if you are feeling a bit frustrated with your kids at the moment...

By now you should have a small mountain of shredded, squeezed zucchinis.  Set them aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.  Stir to thoroughly mix them and set aside.

Next, in a medium bowl combine the melted butter, brown sugar, eggs, yogurt and vanilla.  

Whisk until smooth.

Now add the soaked dates and stir well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients.  Give the zucchini one final hard squeeze with a couple of paper towels, just to make sure you've taken out as much moisture as humanly possible, and add it to the bowl, too.

Fold the ingredients together gently and only just until the flour has all been moistened.  Mix it too much, and it will be dense.

Scrape all the batter out of the bowl into the prepared loaf pan.  If you have little ones, a fun thing to do is use miniature cake tins in different shapes.  Bulldozer likes to have his own little teddy-bear-shaped loaf whenever I make banana or zucchini bread!

Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with just a few crumbs hanging on.  For an eight-inch loaf pan, this should take around 50 minutes to an hour.  I'd start checking periodically after 45 minutes, just to be on the safe side.  If you are using little cake tins for the kids, they should take a lot less time.  I would check on them after 30 minutes.

If you do decide to make a glaze for the bread (although it does perfectly well on its own, or smeared with a bit of plain cream cheese), here's how to do it.  In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar.  Mix well.

Start adding a bit of milk, a little at a time and mixing all the while, until you have the consistency you are looking for.  I wanted it slightly thicker than where I could drizzle it on, but much lighter than a regular frosting.  So I think I used about 2 teaspoons of milk total.

When your bread is done, let it cool in the pan for about ten minutes, then remove it to a wire rack. Let it cool for at least an hour and then spread on your glaze.  You could serve it right away, but I think, like most quick breads, it tastes much better the next day.

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