Tartine's Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake

Elisabeth Prueitt's cookbook, Tartine, is usually my first stop when searching for baked goods. I found her Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake a while back when some beautiful zucchini from The Garden Of needed a home. As is always the case with recipes in Tartine, this quick bread is spot on. The cookbook describes the zucchini flavor as "barely discernable" which is true but not an issue. The tea cake lasts for days, has a balanced flavor, and everything comes together in a relatively fast and unfussy process.

Zucchini's high water content can create a gummy situation so this post includes tips that will ensure your quick bread has a light and even texture throughout. A bonus is that my version is 50% Grist & Toll whole grain spelt which adds nutty notes while still retaining the lovely crumb you see above. I didn't alter the recipe to accommodate the whole grains so if you want to use 100% all-purpose flour no changes are needed. But consider adding at least 25% spelt. It tastes better.

Publishing this post in October feels a little late, but it's going to be 80° this week and I still have SoCal zucchini in the fridge. Mother Nature has chosen to remain on summer break so I'm rolling with it.

Original vs. Adapted

Sugar

The recipe calls for sprinkling two tablespoons of granulated sugar across the top before baking. I only use one tablespoon and sometimes even a smidge less than that.

Nuts

I skipped the 4 ounces (115 grams) of walnuts since I was in the mood for a homogeneous texture.

Flour

As mentioned above, 50% of the white flour was replaced with Grist & Toll whole grain spelt.

Orange Marmalade Substitutes

Orange marmalade (as the original recipe calls for) is my preference but here are a few alternatives.

  • Apricot Preserves - I didn't try this option but Elisabeth Prueitt recommends it if you don't have orange marmalade.
  • Homemade Applesauce - You need to really cook the applesauce down so it's intensely sweet, possibly a little acidic, and a deep caramel color. Is that basically apple butter? Adding 1/4-1/2 tsp orange zest with this option is nice.
  • Sqirl’s Gravenstein Apple Butter - I had a jar that was approaching the "best by" date and decided to give it a try. A solid end result but probably not the best application for Sqirl's creation since it gets a little lost in the tea cake. Also can be paired with 1/4-1/2 tsp orange zest.

Recipe Tips

Timing

Your main enemy with zucchini bread is the moisture content of the vegetables so several of these tips pertain to that issue. First up, don’t grate the zucchini until the oven beeps, flour is sifted, and batter is ready. The grating step should come right at the end.

Batter Texture

The batter's consistency should be thick and never watery. If your batter is watery or runny, you may have added the zucchini too early, grated too soon, or pulverized the zucchini during the grating step. Zucchini starts releasing liquid the minute it comes into contact with salt and sugar.

Baking BFF

At a minimum, use a scale to measure in ounces. I prefer to measure in grams whenever possible and generally avoid using measuring cups. The reason...

One of the many things I like about the Tartine cookbook is that it offers multiple units of measurement (ounces, cups, grams). Out of curiosity, I scooped and scraped a 1/2 cup of marmalade as is specified in the book and then weighed it. My scale showed 5 ounces which is one ounce more than the 4 ounces listed next to 1/2 cup. A one ounce variant here and there can be significant when it comes to baked goods. Some people feel measuring is stifling but I like to think of it as empowering. Once I nail a recipe and have a repeatable process, then that opens up the opportunity to experiment since my base is solid. Different strokes.

More Measuring

You may end up with a slightly wet or gummy middle if the center of the bread comes up 5-10°F short. Smell and sight are important when it comes to baking but in the last 10 minutes there is little visual difference between 203 and 210 degrees. Measure the tea cake in the center and on the edge to ensure you're bringing the bread up to temperature. I use my Thermapen since it's fast, accurate, and has a long thin design that can act as a cake tester. Specific target temperatures included in "Instructions".

Whisk then Sift

I accidentally discovered that there seems to be a flavor difference when it comes to how you incorporate cinnamon. On the first couple of tries, I dropped the dry ingredients into the mesh strainer and sifted straight away followed by some whisking. On subsequent bakes, I whisked the flour with the cinnamon, sifted, then whisked again. The latter has a warm undertone of spice whereas the former has some stronger less cohesive notes. Perhaps it's a Captain Obvious thing to whisk first, but it didn't occur to me initially since I figured the sifting was getting the job done.

Patience

Let the bread rest in the pan for the full 20 minutes after it comes out of the oven and then don’t cut it while hot or warm. Really though, be patient. The truth is I struggle with this tip but the tea cake’s texture and shelf life are so much better once the heat and moisture have time to distribute.

Room Temperature

I’ve mentioned this in a few recipes including Tartine’s Pumpkin Tea Cake and Violet Bakery’s Banana Bread - room temp ingredients are important. You're adding in vegetables that are high in moisture and you don't want the batter to work any harder than is necessary to cook through.

Step Away from the Whisk

Overmixing the batter encourages gluten development which can make the crumb tough or dense. I've included additional notes under "Instructions" to help ensure mixing is minimized.

Farmers | Artisans

I make an effort to source my food from California artisans with a special focus on the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Below is a list of the folks who contributed to this dish.

Tools

Ingredients

  • 135 grams (4 ¾ ounces) Grist & Toll whole grain spelt
  • 135 grams (4 ¾ ounces) Central Milling organic all-purpose beehive
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs (about 50 grams each out of the shell)
  • 5 ounces (½ cup + 2 tablespoons) almond oil or similar
  • 150 grams (5 ¼ ounces) granulated sugar
  • 115 grams (4 ounces) orange marmalade
  • 285 grams (10 ounces) grated zucchini - about 3 small/medium Important: Per the "Recipe Tips", don't grate this in advance.
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar for topping

Instructions

  • Bring the ingredients up to room temperature per the "Recipe Tips". Leave the eggs and zucchini whole during this period.
  • Once the ingredients are at the proper temperature, pre-heat the oven to 350°F and move the rack to the middle position.
  • Oil a 9x5 pan, dust with flour and discard the excess, then line the bottom of the pan with a cut-to-fit piece of parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In a slip-proof bowl, combine 150 grams sugar, 155 grams almond oil, eggs, and marmalade then whisk to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon then whisk to combine, then sift the flour mixture. Dump any bran flakes back into the pile and whisk again to combine.
  • Grate the zucchini. Note: Don't complete this step if you're oven isn't ready.
  • Add the sea salt to the oil mixture, whisk, then add the zucchini immediately afterwards. Gently whisk to combine.
  • Promptly add the flour in 3 additions, adding each successive addition when the flour is about 50-75% incorporated. Note: I find a whisk (when used gently) quickly brings together the first two additions. Towards the third addition, I switch to a spatula for a final fold and to poke around for pockets of dry flour.
  • Stop as soon as everything is incorporated. Do not overmix the batter.
  • Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top - it should be very thick.
  • Sprinkle the top with one tablespoon of sugar then bake immediately - don’t let the batter sit.
  • Set a timer for 30 minutes and another for 55 minutes.
  • At 30 minutes, rotate the pan from front to back then continue baking.
  • At 55 minutes, use a digital thermometer to measure the center and edge of the bread. Target for the center is 210°F. Note: For reference, the center of my bread at this point is 205°F and the edge is 210-212°F. The thermometer isn't coming clean out of the center of the tea cake but it is on the edge of the loaf. I usually bake for 5-10 minutes more. The original recipe calls for 60-70 minutes so this clocks in around 65 minutes.
  • When the center of the bread measures 208-210° and the edges are around 215°, remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack.
  • Gently run a paring knife around the edge to loosen any bits that might be stuck. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes, gently invert the pan, peel off the parchment, then place the bread sugar-side up on the wire rack. Let it cool completely.

Storage

The bread holds up very well on days 1-3 but the top can get a little too moist/odd by day 4. In terms of storage, I put the tea cake in a ziplock bag with a food-safe silicone packet to reduce moisture. Elisabeth Prueitt suggests wrapping it tightly and placing the zucchini bread in the refrigerator for up to 5 days which I haven't tried.

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