Bake Off: Dolly Parton vs Loretta Lynn
Two country legends' recipes face off in the kitchen
Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton are the irrefutable goddess of country music. Both are charismatic performers, gifted songwriters and have established iconic personalities. From the days of sequined gowns and Jiffy Pop hairdos to post-millennial “realness” and one would be hard-pressed to choose one over the other musically. But in the kitchen—well, that’s another matter.
The Loretta Lynn recipe comes from the Coal Miner’s Daughter’s own cookbook, You’re Cookin’ It Country: My Favorite Recipes and Memories. It’s full of down-home, downright useful recipes such as pimento cheese, spoon bread and chicken-fried steak, as well as ones for possum and frog’s legs—also, with more than 30 side dishes, it’s a handy volume come Thanksgiving. (After all, before Loretta Lynn was a superstar, she was a housekeeper and after she was a superstar, she was a spokeswoman for Crisco.) Even more flavor comes from anecdotes about Loretta’s kitchen experiences, such as the time a pressure cooker full of chili blew up all over the kitchen or she dumped a pot of creamed corn over her husband Doo’s head.
Loretta Lynn’s Zucchini Bread
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup oil
2 zucchinis, grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Beat the eggs until fluffy. Stir in the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, zucchinis, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Stir in the zucchini mixture until well mixed. Stir in the nuts. Pour into two well-greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Cool thoroughly before slicing.
One thing I will say for this recipe: It’s easy. Aside from the zucchini, the ingredients are usually at hand—and almost all of them measured out in nice neat measurements without any messy fractions. It’s also fairly fast and easy to put together, even if the mix of sugar, oil, eggs and grated zucchini does remind one of a particularly moist and verdant swamp.
The bread itself came out neatly and evenly baked, with a nice golden color. The zucchini functions more as texture than flavor, making the bread pleasantly moist and light. It’s good for breakfast or a snack; I tried it with apple butter and it was damn good, but your standard dairy butter is a satisfying topper as well.
Next up in the country (singer) kitchen is Dolly Parton. I discovered her banana bread recipe in one of those volumes that can only be found in your local thrift shop: The Celebrity Cookbook, by Joanna Blins circa 1981. It is truly a relic of its time, an era when Joey Heatherton and Joey Bishop were household names and the idea of feasting on Marlo Thomas’ Beef Tournedos Rossini or Robert Evans’ Jellied Madrilene did not seem outre. It’s full of plenty of caricatures and perky quotes and Dolly is no exception. She claims she can cook up a mean batch of spaghetti and, back in the day, she and her family used to make their own lard.
Dolly Parton’s Banana Loaf Bread
2 packages dry active yeast
5½-6 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
About 2½ cups hot water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup honey
2-3 bananas peeled and mashed
Mix together yeast, 2 cups flour and salt in large mixing bowl.
Pour in hot water (not boiling), mixing well.
Add remaining ingredients; beat well until well blended with wooden spoon. Add more flour while stirring until dough is stiff enough to knead.
Knead on lightly floured board, adding only enough flour to keep dough from sticking. Knead dough thoroughly for 10-15 minutes.
Place dough in lightly greased bowl; cover loosely with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 ½ hours.
When dough has risen, punch down, divide in 2 and place halves in 2 well-greased 9 x 5 x 3 inch baking pans.
Cover loosely with cloth and let it rise again.
When dough has risen, place pans in preheated 375°F oven 45 minutes or until tops of loaves are light brown.
Place a piece of aluminum foil over each loaf and bake 20 minutes longer, or until loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Remove loaves from pans; cool on wire racks. Slice, spread with sweet butter while still warm.
Oy, This was quite a project, involving all manner of kneading and rising and covering and uncovering. From the first dump of flour into bowl through to dumping the bread out of the pan, it took a little more than four hours. And it was stressful, from wondering whether “2 or 3 bananas” meant 2 or 3 bananas to debating whether the dough had risen enough to the terrifying moment when I tried to knead the dough, only to realize I’d gone a little light on the flour and was now being attacked by The Blob.
And how was the end result. Ah, how shall I put this? I love Dolly Parton. I saw her play Caesars Palace from the sixth row and I laughed, I cried, I sang along, it was truly great and she can do no wrong. Which is why I’m sure that it’s all my fault the bread turned out this way. It just doesn’t taste like much, barely a trace of banana or honey, and it’s a bit dense and overly chewy.
I had high hopes of making peanut butter and bacon sandwiches on this bread, but I’m not even sure the combined powers of peanut butter and bacon could save the situation. I think I may have added too much flour after the dough attacked me, I may have not mashed the banana enough, I may have screwed up anywhere along the dozen-step, multi-hour process. So, ultimately, Loretta wins this match, but much of the fault for the loss is mine own. I’m sure if I had Dolly’s lard recipe, I would have pulled it off.