Recipe Review

The One Ingredient That Makes Smitten Kitchen’s Zucchini Bread So Good

published Jul 14, 2020
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Credit: Image: Jesse Szewczyk

If you’re a fan of food blogs, chances are you’ve heard of Smitten Kitchen. It’s the wildly popular food blog created by Deb Perelman with a loyal following and two adjacent cookbooks. It’s celebrated for its reliable recipes that are always delicious, fuss-free, and exciting. I can attest that I’ve cooked countless Smitten Kitchen recipes and am always impressed. So when picking out which recipes to include in our zucchini bread showdown, including a Smitten Kitchen recipe was a no-brainer.

Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini bread, which Perelman dubs her “ultimate zucchini bread,” is a simple one-bowl recipe that skips the time-consuming step of draining the shredded zucchini. It comes together in no time and with just a handful of staple ingredients. It’s made with cinnamon and nutmeg, gets showered in coarse turbinado sugar, and is left to sit uncovered overnight to develop an even better flavor. I was curious to see if the resting step would actually be worth the time, and what finishing the loaf in turbinado sugar would do, so I baked up a loaf to find out.

Get the recipe: Ultimate Zucchini Bread

Credit: Image: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Make Smitten Kitchen’s Zucchini Bread

Smitten Kitchen’s recipe is a cinch to make, coming together with just one bowl and in less than 15 minutes. Plus, it only yields one loaf — which I really appreciate because I can never eat two before one of them goes stale!

You’ll start by mixing together grated zucchini (which has not been squeezed or drained) with eggs, oil, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. To that you’ll add cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and baking soda. Give it a few stirs, then add flour. Mix until a batter forms, pour it into a loaf pan that has been coated in nonstick cooking spray, and smooth out the top. Sprinkle with a generous amount of turbinado sugar, then bake in a 350°F oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

At this point, it’s an exercise in patience. Let the bread cool completely in the pan, then let it sit uncovered overnight (or up to 24 hours) before slicing it. Smitten Kitchen stresses that zucchini bread tastes even better the next day, stating that “the difference is so significant, it should be nonnegotiable” — so don’t skip this step! The next day slice it up and enjoy.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

My Honest Review of Smitten Kitchen’s Zucchini Bread Recipe

The first thing I noticed after pulling this loaf out of the oven was that the top was absolutely beautiful. It was sparkly, cracked, and perfectly golden. The turbinado sugar took the presentation to the next level and it was hands-down the prettiest zucchini bread I have ever baked. And after waiting overnight to cut into the bread (which was very difficult to do), I gave it a try.

The sugar topping gave the bread a wonderful crunch that perfectly contrasted the soft interior. It was a simple upgrade that made me wonder why everyone doesn’t top their zucchini bread with coarse sugar. The flavor of the bread was also great, and the most spice-forward of all the recipes I tested. The cinnamon was pleasantly strong, and the addition of nutmeg added a subtle warmth. It had a gingerbread-like quality to it that I loved.

The only downside was that the loaf wasn’t as moist as I would have liked. It wasn’t dry, but it wasn’t all that moist. I stuck to the cooking time listed in the recipe, but it’s very possible that my oven ran hot. If the texture was just a tad bit more moist, this recipe would have been the ultimate winner. But overall it is a very good recipe, and I would be happy to make it again.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

If You’re Making Smitten Kitchen’s Zucchini Bread, a Few Tips

  1. Line your loaf pan with parchment paper. The recipe only calls for spraying the pan with nonstick cooking spray, but lining the pan with parchment paper and leaving overhang on the two long sides makes lifting it out so much easier.
  2. Don’t be nervous about the salt. This recipe calls for an entire teaspoon of salt, which might sound like a lot, but is warranted. The bread doesn’t taste salty at all — just balanced and flavorful.
  3. Make sure you’re using dark brown sugar, not light. This is the only recipe I tested that used dark brown sugar, and I could taste the difference. It was rich and caramel-y, with a much stronger molasses flavor compared to the other loaves. Although light brown sugar is more common, using dark in this recipe is a real game-changer and gives it wonderful flavor.
  4. Don’t be skimpy with the turbinado sugar. The crunchy sugar topping was the best part of this zucchini bread, so don’t be shy about adding a lot. The recipe calls for two tablespoons, but I encourage you to add more if you’re looking for an even crunchier topping.

Rating: 8/10

Have you ever baked Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini bread recipe? Tell us what you thought!

Credit: Image: Jesse Szewczyk