It’s 3:30 am, you can’t sleep, it’s pitch-black dark outside, the leaves are nearly ground-cover and your best early-morning alarm — the mad train driver with incessant pull on the horn is chugging past the ragged edge of the neighborhood; what’s your first thought? Mine today, was zuchini bread. In sort-of planning ahead for baking this at some point today, I’d printed out the recipe last night for morning prep. I did not however, note the temperature the author listed — at the moment of printing I was most concerned about ingredients and oil substitutions. I make certain assumptions with quick bread and muffin recipes, which considering how much we’re talking about first impressions at Girl Scout meetings, I should probably reconsider.
The problem with baking at 3:30 am, is that once you read the recipe — the details don’t always sink in. I managed to pull all the dry ingredients together, the slurry of zuchini, butter, honey and eggs — and even preheat the oven to the suggested 325 degrees. I fire up the Keurig, for my first cup of coffee and cream, then coat the bread pan with a flourish of spray and hooray, we’re in the oven about 4:30. Because our oven is so small (24″) and so old (1980) and the controls (all manual, including a pre-led clock), I’m forced to use the alarm on my phone as a timer for any sense of an accurate passge of time. Even as I sit down to read the mornings disturbances via the world of internet news, I am braced for the jangle of the power-alarm my phone dish-out; calling it a buzzer is too kind — it is a nerve jangling rat-tat-tat that picks up speeed and sounds more like our tornado alarm than our tornado alarm.
After I finally settle on looking at Etsy instead of the WaPo and my coffee has cooled to the tepid chalky flavor I’ve grown to love — the nerve jiggering alarm goes off and I slurp my way to the kitchen. It’s a small house (with a small oven), so it’s not as if this takes me more than 20 seconds…I open the tiny door, pull out the rack and insert a paring knife deep into the zucchini core and not suprisingly, goo is returned to me on both sides of my blade. Okay, no problem, how about 5 more minutes — good rise so far, starting on a nice color, but we don’t want to get too crazy. Retrace steps to chair, laptop and Etsy screen where I’m pretty sure I’ve located my grandmother’s original Nordic Ware dishes that I broke when I was 11. More nerve splitting beeping, 5 minutes has passed already…open oven, insert knife again, and yes — still some goo. Deep breath and set alarm yet again; it is at this point that I realize just how tired and sleep deprived I am — and how, there is no way I can keep this up — back and forth: chair, small oven, knife, back to chair, back to small oven, back to knife.
And then, I know what the problem is — 325 degrees must be the absolute dumbest temperature ever for baked goods. Why not 350 and just get the job done? I understand the science of a slow-bake — the beauty that transpires when gluten, butter, sugar, baking powder all gloriously come together for the perfect bread-sponge. But the difference of 25 degrees, on a 3:30 am morning — would’ve made a world of difference; limiting my barefoot shuffle-slurps across the floor to perhaps two, instead of four. Note to self, note on recipe: no more 325. Ever.
Result: the team enjoyed warm zuchini (walnut, raisin, applesauce) bread for breakfast. And lunch, and possibly dinner unless there is a nap somewhere, sometime today.