If I told you that I have a recipe for a baked good that omits dairy, gluten, and refined sugar, words like cardboard and yuck might come to mind. Yet this mildly sweet, tender zucchini bread really tastes great.
While I don’t advocate or personally subscribe to any specific diet plans, my recipes sometimes fit the parameters–or can be easily adapted–to suit a variety of dietary needs and preferences. The following wholesome version of a classic quick bread could be labeled as “Paleo.”
For those who may not be familiar, the idea behind a Paleolithic diet is to eat like people ate a long time ago…a very long time ago. That is to say, if a caveman couldn’t eat it, neither would one who follows a Paleo diet. This translates to a menu of meats, fish, nuts, veggies, and seeds—basically anything that could be hunted or gathered. Foods like pasta, breakfast cereal, and candy are considered off limits.
The Paleo or caveman diet became popular in the late 2000s, and I recently read that it was Google’s most searched-for weight loss method in 2013. Advocates argue that modern agriculture and the domestication of animals have created a decline in the quality of our food. They also believe that humans have not evolved to properly digest “new” foods such as grain, legumes, and dairy, much less the processed foods that are so widely available.
Opponents of this eating plan claim that any diet that restricts certain food groups isn’t balanced, and there isn’t strong science to prove that Paleo-eaters live longer or are healthier than those who don’t follow the diet. What’s more, whole grains and legumes, while forbidden on a Paleo regimen, are vitamin and fiber-rich and can play an important role in a healthy, well-rounded diet.
My mom always advocated an “everything in moderation” approach. Though I’m not a nutritionist, dietician, or doctor, I think this makes a lot of sense. As much as possible, I focus on the colorful produce, whole grains, and lean proteins of my mom’s grounded approach that champions exercise while allowing for dessert. In a world where we are bombarded with information on what is good for us and what is bad for us–and these things seems to be ever changing–I think this may be the wisest eating plan yet!
So I offer this zucchini bread recipe, not because it aligns with a modern Paleo diet, but because my family thinks it tastes great. I like the ingredient list where protein-rich almond flour stands in for white flour and a reasonable amount of honey or maple syrup replaces refined sugar. The easy recipe is also a perfect way to chip away at the season’s ever-growing stockpile of zucchini–and it freezes well.
Yields 2 (3×5-inch) loaves or 1 (9×5-inch) loaf.
- 1 1/4 cups blanched almond flour
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s natural unsweetened, not “dutched”)
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs (see notes)
- 1/3 cup honey (may substitute pure maple syrup)
- 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil (melted butter or a fruity olive oil are other good options)
- 3/4 cup zucchini, shredded
- Optional add-ins: white (or dark) chocolate chips, nuts of choice, dried cherries, cranberries or raisins (1/4 cup is a good starting point for the various options)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease two 3×5-inch loaf pans or one 9-5-inch loaf pan. (I like to line with parchment paper for easy removal.)
In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. (Stir in any nuts or chips, if using.) In another medium to large bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Whisk in the honey or maple syrup and the oil, and then stir in the zucchini. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix until thoroughly combined.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan(s), and bake for 28-30 minutes for the 3×5-inch pans, adding approximately 5 minutes for a 9×5-inch loaf pan. All ovens vary, so check a few minutes early and add extra time, if needed. The loaf will feel firm yet a little springy when pressed in the center. If it feels mushy when pressed, bake a little longer and then check again. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan before removing to a rack to cool completely.
- If using coconut oil, it helps to bring the eggs to room temperature so the coconut oil does not re-solidify upon mixing with cold ingredients.
- If you are tempted to stretch the zucchini to a full cup, I recommend squeezing out some of the moisture. When using the stated 3/4 cups, I have found this step not to be necessary in this recipe.