Well it seems like it’s the year of the zucchini. They’re huge, they’re plentiful, and they’re cheap! My mother-in-law sent one home with my wife from her garden the other day, I kid you not it had to weigh close to three pounds… biggest zucchini I’ve ever seen. Needless to say I’ve been cooking with zucchini all weekend… Ratatouille, zucchini rice balls, roasted zucchini chips, but I still had more. So yesterday I decided to make a little treat for the kids, a zucchini banana bread with a bit of homemade sea salt caramel. It came out ooey, gooey, sweet and delicious! Listed below is the recipe, obviously you can choose whether or not you want to make the caramel. Truthfully the bread is absolutely delicious without it, but I like that added salty and sweet component.
1 1/2c All Purpose Flour
1/2c Granulated White Sugar
1/2c Light Brown Sugar
1/2tsp Baking Powder
1/2tsp Baking Soda
1 1/4c Mashed Ripe Bananas, roughly three bananas
8tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1c Shredded Zucchini
1tbsp Milk (Whole or 2%)
1/2c Granulated White Sugar
2/3c Milk (Whole or 2%)
1tsp Sea Salt
Heat your oven to 325F.
Lightly grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan.
In a mixing bowl combine the flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mix well. In a separate bowl combine the egg, mashed banana, melted butter, vanilla extract, shredded zucchini and milk. Add to the dry mixture and mix on low speed until a batter is formed. Pour into the greased loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 60-70 minutes.
Now let’s get started on the caramel. This recipe yields 2/3c of this gooey goodness.
A few quick notes… Caramel can get a little tricky. First and foremost you have to pay close attention to the sugar because it can go from golden liquid awesomeness to burnt acrid nastiness in about 10 seconds if you’re not paying attention. Secondly, when you add the milk it’s going to steam, A LOT, and if you’re hands aren’t used to high heat it’s gonna hurt. You may want to use an oven mitt on your stirring hand. Thirdly, the sugar may seize up on you a little bit and form hard chunks that get stuck to the bottom of the pot. If this happens keep the heat relatively low and keep stirring. Eventually it will melt back into a liquid state. The last thing with caramel… KEEP STIRRING.
Ok, I lied, three more things. I strongly recommend using a tall, heavy bottomed pot for this, preferably non-stick. It will most definitely bubble and splash when you add the milk and if you’re using a sauté pan or shallow pot you could end up wearing a lot of that on your person and that does not feel pretty, trust me, I know first hand. Next, I recommend using a heat resistant stirring spatula. If you don’t have one then use a wooden spoon. DO NOT use a whisk unless you want a lot of hardened sugar stuck in there and it’s not fun to get out (once again, trust me). Last thing, then I swear I’ll give you the directions… Yes I know that traditionally you use heavy cream for caramel. I usually do too, BUT, considering we’re trying to be slightly more health conscious in my household right now I opted for 2% milk. It takes longer to get it to the consistency you want, but I feel the end result is just as good, and less fattening.
Pour your sugar into a medium sized, tall, heavy bottomed pot and tap down so it’s evenly coating the bottom of the pot. Cook on medium-low, don’t start stirring yet. Once the sugar has been going for a few minutes put the milk in a microwave safe container and heat for 45 seconds on high. At about the 8 minute mark the sugar should be melting and lightly browning. Push the melted sugar over any sections that haven’t melted yet to get them going. Once the sugar is melted and a caramel color (it should just be starting to steam a little, but not yet burn) add the warmed milk and stir vigorously. Once the sugar and milk are fully integrated, and there are no longer any chunks of hardened sugar, increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 15 minutes, stirring regularly. Remove from the heat and allow to rest at room temperature. The caramel may not seem thick, but as it cools it will thicken up, don’t worry. Stir in the sea salt just before serving. In the recipe I am recommending 1 teaspoon, as it helps offset the sweetness of the caramel and the cake. You may want to do a little less if anyone in your household is salt sensitive, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing more than a teaspoon.
Once your toothpick is coming out clean from the bread remove it from the oven and let it rest at room temperature for least 15 minutes. Drizzle the caramel over the top, slice that bad boy up, and enjoy!