Orange Essence Zucchini Bread

Zucchini is one of the most abundant fall vegetables here in the US.  And zucchini bread is one of the most popular ways to use it up, especially when your garden produces an abundance of overgrown, deep green squash.  While I don’t have a garden (just a few tomato plants on my patio), one of my associates at work has generously shared this years zucchini crop.

Quick breads often seem more like cake than bread, and I’m ok with that.  Classic zucchini bread is so comforting and delicious!  However, I wanted my zucchini bread to really stand apart, so I started baking.  And baking.  And baking.  I don’t know how many loaves and muffins I’ve given away in my quest for the perfect bread, but it’s been a lot!  However, it has been well worth it because I really do believe that this is the best zucchini bread I’ve ever had.  It’s subtly sweet with just a hint of orange while still maintaining that classic zucchini bread flavor.  If you like to drizzle yours with a sweet glaze, I’ve included directions for a quick orange glaze that perfectly compliments it.  I hope it’s your new favorite!

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
zest from 1 large orange
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts or unsalted pistachios (optional)

Orange Glaze (optional):
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed orange juice
¼ teaspooon orange zest

Makes about 2 full-sized loaves, 4 mini-loaves, or about 24 muffins.
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Directions:

Prepare your loaf pan or muffin tins.  I highly recommend using parchment if you’re making loaves because, for some reason, this bread seems to stick to my stoneware EVERY time if I don’t.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 C)

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zest off the orange being careful to get as little white pith as possible.  Toss the orange peel and the granulated sugar into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulverize until the peel is very finely minced into the sugar.  Set aside.Orange Sugar 1.jpg

Sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon together in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs, oil, vanilla, brown sugar and orange sugar together.  Add sifted ingredients to the wet mixture and beat will.
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Stir in the zucchini and nuts until well combined.  Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake for 40-60 for a loaf pan.
Bake approx 30 minutes for muffins.

Test doneness by inserting a toothpick or small tester into the middle.  When it comes out clean, it’s done!

Allow bread to cool in pans for about 20 minutes (not necessary for muffins using liners), then turn them out and let it cool completely.

To prepare optional glaze: whisk sugar, orange juice and zest in a bowl until smooth.  Drizzle over bread.

Enjoy!
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Key Lime Cheesecake

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Imagine a dessert that’s sweet, tart, silky, crunchy, rich and fluffy all at once.  Are you imagining Key Lime Cheesecake?  This sweet treat is one that will awaken all your senses…and is quite possibly my favorite dessert!  It’s so refreshing when it’s served ice cold on a hot day.  

Occasionally, I take orders for baked goods/desserts and this one is the one that’s most requested.  Don’t be intimidated by all the steps, it’s really quite simple!  You can even prepare the crust ahead of time or, if you’re really in a pinch, you can purchase prepared graham cracker crusts (this recipe fills 2!).  That being said, I highly recommend making your own crust with the addition of the unsweetened coconut.  The coconut really adds something special!  You can usually find it in the bulk section of the grocery store.  If not, ask!  Want to present your cheesecake in a more festive way?  Scroll to the bottom for a fun variation: cheesecake mini’s!

Go ahead, try this one!!  Your time and effort will be rewarded!  

Ingredients:

Crust
1 package Graham Crackers (about 1 ½ cups, crushed)
½ cup unsweetened coconut
⅓ cup granulated sugar
6 tbs butter, melted
½ tsp cinnamon
*If you choose not to use coconut, just increase your graham cracker crumbs to 2 cups.

Cheesecake
1 cup Nelly & Joe’s Key Lime Juice
¼ cup water
2 envelopes unflavored Knox gelatin
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
5 eggs
zest from 1 lime
½ cup butter, softened
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Optional: additional heavy whipping cream to decorate plus granulated sugar to taste.

Special Equipment: Springform PanIngredients w Logo.jpg

Method:

Preheat oven to 375* F.

In a food processor, process graham crackers until they turn to coarse crumbs, add in coconut and pulse until combined.  Crumbs w Logo.jpg

Transfer to a bowl, add melted butter, sugar and cinnamon.  Stir until thoroughly combined and mixture clumps.
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Press crumbs firmly into the bottom of an ungreased springform pan.  Bake for 7 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool completely.
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In a 2 qt saucepan, combine lime juice, water and gelatin.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Add sugar, eggs, and lime zest.  Lime Zest w Logo.jpg

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Whisk up the mixture until completely combined and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it just begins to bubble.  DO NOT allow it to boil.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and cream cheese together until well combined.Cream Cheese & Butter w Logo.jpg

Pour the hot lime mixture into the cream cheese mixture.  Beat with an electric mixture until thoroughly combined, approximately 2 minutes.

Refrigerate for about an hour, stirring occasionally.  You want the mixture to cool down, but not set up.

In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form.  (DO NOT add sugar.)

Once lime mixture is cool, fold in the whipped cream.  Make sure you combine it well, but some marbling is okay.

Pour mixture into the prepared crust, smooth out the top and refrigerate for several hours to allow cheesecake to firm up.
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Once cheesecake has set, run a knife around the edge of the springform pan to loosen the edges.  Slowly release the clasp and press the cake up out of the pan.  You can remove the bottom piece of the pan by putting a sheet of parchment over the top of the cheesecake, putting a cutting board (or other flat surface) over the parchment, then flipping the whole cake over.  Insert a butter knife between the pan and crust and the crust should pop right off.  Place your serving platter on top of the crust and flip the cheesecake back over.  Carefully remove parchment from the top.

You can serve your cheesecake naked, or decorate with whipped cream.

Whip approximately 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream in a metal bowl until stiff peaks form.  Add in sugar to taste, one tablespoon at a time, until desired sweetness is reached.

Use the whipped cream in a piping bag or frosting gun to create all sorts of designs.  My favorite is the roses and stars (pictured), which is created by using a 2D star tip.  Decorate w Logo.jpg

Variation:
You can create cheesecake mini’s, which is my personal favorite way to prepare this dessert, and it’s a lot easier to serve.  Fill cupcake pans with paper or foil liners.

Note:  You cannot prepare the mini’s in batches, they must all be done at once.  If you don’t have at least 24 spaces in cupcake pans you can purchase disposables at any dollar store/grocery store.

Press about 1 tablespoon of the crumb mixture into the bottom of each.  I like to fill all the cups before pressing to ensure the mixture is spread evenly.  Bake about 7 minutes at 375.

Fill each cupcake with the prepared lime mixture, you should have more than enough to fill each cupcake to the very top (any excess can be refrigerated and enjoyed without crust).  Refrigerate until cooled and set, at least 2 hours.  Garnish with whipped cream and lime zest.

Serve ice cold and enjoy!

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