I received a complimentary review copy of County Fair, the cookbook this recipe was originally published in. As always, all content and opinions are my own.
My main gripe about baking with zucchini is that most recipes don't include enough of the stuff. When I'm staring down a behemoth of a squash lounging on my kitchen counter, I don't want a bread recipe that includes a mere cup or a batch of cookies that calls for a small zucchini. I want to actually use up the entire enormous vegetable, preferably with the involvement of chocolate.
For years, my go-to zucchini baking recipe has been this chocolate zucchini bread from my mom—often I'll bake one 8x4 loaf and use the rest of the batter to make muffins. However, as I perused a review copy of Liza Gershman's County Fair, a recipe for zucchini brownies caught my eye. It called for a whopping three cups of finely shredded zucchini, plus cocoa powder and an entire package of chocolate chips. This was worth investigating.
Although there are nearly 80 recipes, County Fair: Nostalgic Blue Ribbon Recipes from America's Small Towns is more of a coffee table book than a culinary resource. Gershman is a photographer by trade, and accordingly, the pages of County Fair are dense with gorgeously styled food shots, pictures of farmhouse kitchens, and artistic images of the county fair midway. The actual recipes are compiled from county and state fair ribbon winners across the country, with a recipe or two representing each state. Most are for baked goods, but there are also some recipes for pickles, jams, and other preserves.
When I started preparing the "zucchini brownie" recipe, I realized that it wasn't going to turn out anything like the dense, fudgy brownies pictured on opposite page, frosted and topped with blackberries. First of all, there weren't any instructions about frosting or an optional fruit topping. Secondly, the ingredients were all wrong—the amount of leavening and the flour to shortening ratio (even accounting for the zucchini's moisture) weren't indicative of a fudgy brownie recipe, or for that matter, even a cake-like brownie recipe. This is a straight-up chocolate zucchini cake, studded with chocolate chips.
That said, it is an excellent cake recipe—it's very moist and chocolatey, and it uses an impressive amount of zucchini. You'll end up with a great deal of cake, but the leftovers keep well tightly covered at room temperature, and I suspect they would freeze well, too.
Adapted from "Zucchini Brownies" inspired by Desiree Wallace, from County Fair: Nostalgic Blue Ribbon Recipes from America's Small Towns by Liza Gershman
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 cups finely grated zucchini (approximately one large zucchini)
- 12-ounce package semi sweet chocolate chips, divided
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 inch glass baking dish.
In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt until well-combined. Add egg, oil, and vanilla and mix until well-combined. Mix in the zucchini until evenly distributed. Fold in about 3/4 of the chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
Pour the batter into the prepared dish and sprinkle with the remaining chocolate chips.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a knife or cake tester into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool in the baking dish on a wire rack. Store tightly covered at room temperature.
Although I received a complimentary review copy of County Fair, I purchased all ingredients out-of-pocket, and I didn't receive any additional compensation for this blog post.
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