Baking with Nana

Grandma’s classic zucchini bread recipe, plus an elevated update

It’s a cold, rainy morning. The cats want to go outside, but quickly retreat into the house once their paws feel the temperature. The coffeemaker gurgles as I place two slices of Nana’s zucchini bread into the toaster oven.

Ding! chimes the timer as news headlines echo from the television. I open the door to a familiar aroma that creates a sense of nostalgia. Butter pats melt before I can spread them across each slice of bread. When the coffee is ready, the cats want to cuddle, my favorite program is on and the day is open.

That cozy winter scene is what eating Nana’s zucchini bread feels like.

Although she called it bread, it more closely resembles the sweetness and texture of unfrosted carrot cake. It’s the kind of comfort food that is gobbled up quickly and then everyone wonders where it all went.

Nana is the late grandmother of my wife, Teresa. As a child, Teresa baked cookies and cakes alongside her beloved Nana for the annual Christmas day feast.

Because Nana’s bread was most often eaten in the weeks following the holiday, it became the family’s favorite wintertime comfort.

When Teresa was an adult, Nana let her write down the original recipe, which was scribbled on two index cards that are now framed and hang on our kitchen wall. Over the years, Teresa has carried on the tradition. In a daylong performance, she hauls the big stand mixer across the kitchen and begins preparations. My job is to buy groceries, grate zucchinis and wash cookware between batches.

On one occasion, Teresa was procrastinating. When I offered to bake a batch, she cautioned that I didn’t know the secret ingredients “that aren’t in Nana’s recipe.” I said that it wouldn’t be Nana’s recipe with secret ingredients.

“Mine’s better,” she answered.

Recently, Teresa relented and let me bake.

“The secret ingredients are an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract and a little maple flavoring,” she told me. Knowing I hate maple flavor, she reassured me that it wouldn’t be noticeable. But when she said to add nutmeg, I protested.

For my version, I added a secret ingredient of my own: a little THC. I used 1 gram of live-resin cannabis concentrate from the Monterey Kush Co. Concentrates leave no detectable cannabis smell or taste. To prep my addition, I cooked the live resin in a 200 degree oven for half an hour. This crucial process, called decarboxylation, boils off inert ingredients while activating the THC. Heating also allows the concentrate to blend in evenly with cooking oil.

I want to caution readers who try the THC option: Everybody reacts differently to edibles, which can take as long as two hours to kick in. There is absolutely no comfort in overdosing family or friends, so the baker should sample every batch before offering it to others. (Though my infused loaves turned out great, there was perhaps too much concentrate. It was hella potent.)

For those who want to make a straight batch alongside a loaded one, a suggestion for distinguishing them is to add chopped walnuts to one batch.

Nana’s zucchini bread

3 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 cup cooking oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups raw zucchini, grated

3 cups flour

1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

Teresa’s additions:

1/2 teaspoon more vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon maple extract

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Ken’s addition:

Add 1/2 to 1 gram of cannabis concentrate (depending on desired potency) to the cooking oil

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350. Beat eggs in mixing bowl until foamy. Blend in sugar, oil (with cannabis concentrate if desired), vanilla, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, baking powder, zucchini and flour (plus Teresa’s additions if desired). Mix at high speed until well-blended. Pour into two well-greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pans, and bake for 75-90 minutes (done when butter knife stuck in middle comes out clean). Reduce baking times for smaller loaf pans.