A food and nutrition writer for more than a dozen years and a vegetarian since the age of 13, Ellen Kanner is a fourth-generation Floridian living la vida vegan in Miami. She keeps a website and a blog and contributes regularly to the Huffington Post. She is the author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost.

A definitive vegan zucchini bread

Lemon lifts the flavor

September 16, 2010

The universe exists by certain immutable laws — gravity, physics, stuff like that. I accept these rules even if I don’t always understand them. But sometimes a girl’s gotta buck the system. I do not accept the fact that zucchini bread — or any quick bread — needs multiple cups of sugar and oil to taste good.

I like zucchini. Even now, late in summer, when it’s as ubiquitous as Lady Gaga (without the odd wardrobe). And I like zucchini bread. Jasmine tea and zucchini bread have seen me through tough times more than once. Over the course of years, the perfect zucchini bread became a quest, without me even realizing it. It’s genetic. Food obsessions run in the family.

My grandfather obsessed about antipasti. He’d eaten it somewhere (didn’t know where) and rejected every one thereafter as inferior. He couldn’t tell you what he liked, what he didn’t like, or what was lacking; he just knew every antipasto he tried was not up to snuff.

For my father, the issue has been gnocchi. Every batch he’s eaten (and he eats them everywhere) fails to live up to the fluffy, flavorful, handmade gnocchi he enjoyed in Emilia-Romagna.

I demand a lot from a zucchini bread. I would like to reduce the degree to which we are enslaved by processed sugar and flour, your basic white devils. Being vegan, I am also at odds with dairy and eggs.

Ellen’s vegan zucchini bread.

The vegan factor complicates everything. Many vegan baked goods are — and I don’t want to alienate my own here — heavy. Or wet. Or both. Despite the universe indicating otherwise, I knew the kind of zucchini bread I was seeking had to exist.

Undaunted and obsessed, I have made many, many versions of it. Some were my own made-up-on-the-spot creations, while others were adapted from existing recipes with names like Best Ever Vegan Zucchini Bread.

We won’t say the recipe creators are liars. We’ll just say we have a difference of opinion.

My definitive zucchini-bread recipe came about the way of all my culinary successes: off-book, intuitively, in a kitchen fever. It contains ingredients that may seem arcane but are readily got at natural food stores. I am an arcane vegan, so I had them in my pantry: spelt flour, which has higher protein and is more digestible than regular wheat flour; agave nectar, with a lower glycemic index than refined sugar; and flax-seed meal, a binding agent in baking that also has the advantage of being high in fiber and omega-3s.

While many vegan baked goods rely on applesauce to provide moisture, too often the results go gloppy on you. I used soy milk soured with lemon juice, then grated in the lemon zest while I was at it. I was amazed how much one lemon could lift the taste and texture. It lifted my spirits, too.

The bread is flavorful, flaxen, light, lemony, tender, and vegan, with eye-catching green zucchini flecks.

If you want yet another standard-issue zucchini bread laden with oil and sugar, this is not your zucchini bread. This is my zucchini bread. I’m glad to share it with you and the whole universe.

Related recipe: Vegan Zucchini Bread

There are 2 comments on this item
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1. by Janice on Sep 16, 2010 at 12:34 PM PDT

Thanks for the recipe--I’ve been looking for vegan quickbread recipes.

Please note, though, that spelt is NOT safe for celiacs. It is a wheat variety, and as such, is chock full of gluten.

2. by Caroline Cummins on Sep 17, 2010 at 7:36 AM PDT

Janice -- Thanks for pointing out that spelt is indeed a wheat flour and therefore unsafe for people who have celiac disease. We’ve changed the post, above, to reflect this.

There’s a distinction between wheat allergies and celiac disease. Gluten intolerance also can vary; celiac disease is a genetic, autoimmune disorder that’s a severe form of gluten intolerance.

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