Growing like Weeds

Despite the common complaints echoing through the blogosphere about planting too much zucchini, and consequently eating far too many meals based around the green summer squash, it sounds like the best problem a gardener could have. Impossible to imagine from my barren plot of rocky earth, an overabundance, or even modest yield of anything edible would be a welcome challenge to tackle. So while the next foodie is grumbling about their 5th zucchini bread of the season, and wondering who else they could pawn this next loaf off on, I find my appetite for this humble staple growing by the day, just like the vegetables in question.

Not until recently had I even tried zucchini bread, much less considered it as a baked good so fundamental to summer loving. Egged on by my mom’s skepticism about savory vegetables baked into a sweet quick bread, I was convinced I would prove her wrong, throwing in spices, brown sugar, and chocolate to really dress up that otherwise ordinary loaf.

No doubt, this was what excess zucchini was made for, and each of the dozen carefully cut slices disappeared in no time. But without my own glut of summer squash, this revelation was quickly forgotten, and another year passed before the concept flickered into my head. Again, my mother made faces at the mention of such a bread, her experience lost in the passage of time as well.

So it was time to step it up yet again. Forget that plain old zucchini bread. Try, zucchini babka.

Traditionally reserved for holidays, this rich, yeasted bread is the perfect vehicle for some of those excess zucchinis.  Really, you’d be kidding yourself if you approached this as a “healthier” treat thanks to the vegetables, as it could very well be more decadent than that ubiquitous carrot cake piled high with cream cheese frosting.   Don’t let that stop you from having a thick slice for breakfast though; if you can call a cupcake without frosting a muffin, you can easily get away with pretending that this cake in bread’s clothing is a reasonable choice to start the morning.  Your taste buds will certainly thank you.

Even if you’re not “burdened” with extra zucchini, this one is worth picking up an extra squash or two at the market for.

Zucchini Babka

Zucchini Dough:

1 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 1/4-Ounce Package Active Dry Yeast
4 – 6 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Cups Shredded Zucchini, Squeezed and Drained of Excess Liquid
1 Tablespoon Chia Seeds, Ground
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Vegan Butter, Cut into Pieces and at Room Temperature

Chocolate-Cinnamon Filling

3 Tablespoons Melted Vegan Butter, Divided
6 Ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate, Chopped Finely
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar

To make the dough, first warm the non-dairy milk for just a minute or two in the microwave, until it reaches between 105 – 115°F. Be careful, because any hotter and you’ll kill the yeast! Stir in the sugar, and sprinkle the yeast in and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until bubbly and active. Transfer this mixture into your stand mixer, along with 3 cups of the flour, the chia seeds, zucchini, vanilla, and salt. Begin mixing on low, so as not to kick any flour out of the bowl, and continue until the dry ingredients have become mostly incorporated. Switch over to the dough hook, add in 1 more cup of flour, and allow the mixer to begin kneading the dough.

Once the dough is smooth, add in 1 – 2 more cups of flour, depending on how sticky it is. You want it to be tacky and elastic, but not wet and gooey. Continue working the dough with the dough hook while slowly dropping in pieces of vegan butter, one at a time, waiting until the previous piece has been incorporated before adding the next. It should become very shiny and soft. After all of the butter has been used, let the stand mixer keep kneading for 5 – 10 more minutes. Scrape the dough out into an oiled bowl, cover loosely with a cloth or piece of plastic wrap, and let sit in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in volume.

Scrape dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

To assemble your babka, first lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, and set aside.

Punch down the dough with your knuckles, and on a well-floured surface, roll it out into a rectangle. Be sure to keep the two short sides no longer than 9 – 11 inches so that it will fit in the pan, but roll it out lengthwise as far as possible- The longer the dough, the more spirals you will get in the finished bread.

Brush your rectangle with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter, leaving 1/2 inch of one of the long sides clear. Mix together the chopped chocolate, cinnamon, and sugar in a small bowl, and sprinkle it evenly over the dough. Press the filling in gently with your hands. Starting with the long edge that is completely covered, roll up the dough as tightly as possible, but don’t be aggressive, as it’s a fairly delicate dough. Once you get a very long tube, arrange it with the two ends next to each other, like a squashed horse shoe. Twist the two sides together, and press the ends beneath the mass of dough, and carefully fit it into the pan. If your dough is too large to fit comfortably, you may need to fold more of the ends underneath. Brush the top of the dough with the remaining tablespoon of margarine.

Don’t panic- This is a VERY large loaf! It will seem way too big for the pan, but don’t worry, it will simply be very impressive when finished.

Let the bread rise for another hour or so, until just about doubled, and then pop it into a 350 degree preheated oven, for about 40 – 50 minutes. It should be golden brown on top, and when removed from the pan, it will sound hollow when tapped. (Yes, you can cool it, tap it, and then toss it back in the oven if it doesn’t sound right.)

Let cool completely before slicing.

Makes 1 Huge Loaf

Printable Recipe

47 thoughts on “Growing like Weeds

  1. I LOVE babka! And I love zucchini too! Hannah you’ve really hit a good idea here. I know what I’m making my dad for his birthday…

  2. ANYTHING with chocolate cinnamon filling is alright by me! It’s breakfast here right now and I am really wishing I had a nice, thick slice of this beautiful bread to accompany my smoothie. Really beautiful picture!

  3. You don’t need to say a word more. I’m a Zucchini Babka fan already. Now I must give it a chance and make some fans more (I feel a little alone here) but not too much or I’ll be baking this treat for ever.

    Thank you for this recipe!!! Zucchinis usually end up here into a good “pisto” or “cream”, just that. Like an old Hoolywood star stacked to the same roll again and again and again.

    Cheers from Spain.

  4. I made zucchini muffins once and the texture was just….scary. I’m not sure what I did wrong. Looking at this loaf though has made me think that zucchini in baked goods is definitely not bad! Yum!!

  5. Oh my gosh Hannah! This is such a fantastic recipe! What a great way to spice up a zucchini bread recipe and make it so much more fun and delicious. Great job!

  6. What an ingenious idea! I love zucchini bread and adore babka, so I can only imagine how incredibly tasty this hybrid must be.

  7. YESYESYES. I have made 4 batches of zucchini muffins, 2 batches of zucchini bread, 2 pans of zucchini brownies, 1 batch of zucchini corn bread, 1 batch of zucchini cookies, and chili. I used 2 1/2 zucchinis.

    ANYWAY this looks great! Much different than what I have been making, and just what I have been wanting to make.

  8. Ohhh, zucchini bread is the BEST! My mom made this every summertime for us, growing up. She did a chocolate-chip zucchini bread version. I will definately try this!

  9. I agree with the sentiment of your post. It really is the best possible problem to have. I’ve had such an abundance of veggies because of my CSA share and as much as I complain I love having to come up with creative uses.

  10. Cinnamon and chocolate sound like great compliments for zucchini. I can’t wait until my new kitchen is clean and organized so I can bake this cake/bread!

  11. Oh YUM!! It sounds wonderful! Do you use the chia seeds like you would flax seeds instead of an egg? Or are they just for the added health benefits?

  12. HUNGRY! I found your blog through Vegan Dad, but I’m pretty sure I heard you on Vegan Radio a few months ago. Anyway, just wanted to say great blog, and very useful too.

  13. Ive never tried zucchini bread, but I love banana bread! So i imagine it may be a similar texture. The chocolate cinnamon part sounds delightful too :)


  14. Yum! I do believe that a chocolate swirl beats out the normal chocolate chips! Wonderful idea!
    I don’t know about the cinnamon. It sounds odd, but interesting.

  15. Gosh I had to scroll down so long to get here…Now I am here this is an amazing recipe. I love the swirls in it. It looks decadent.Lovely photography as usual. Your blog really inspired me to take better photos on my blog. I do not have a good cam yet but I have been getting some decent shots out of my cam. Keep up the good work Hannah

  16. Gorgeous delicious yummy looking loaf!! I’m in love with how babkas look and I’m sure they taste even better yet I’ve never made one. Love this zucchini creation!

  17. I know this post is more than 10 years old but i just stumbled upon the recipe this week. I made it and it was delicious. I substituted half of the zucchini with grated apples. Everyone enjoyed it. Can I use the dough minus the zucchini as a base for babka dough?

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