It’s only a year later that I had time to complete and post the Daring Bakers’ February 2012 challenge on my blog. The host, Lis, challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

Quick Bread is defined by Epicurious as a bread that is quick to make because it doesn’t require kneading or rising time. That’s because the leavener in such a bread is usually baking powder or baking soda, which, when combined with moisture, starts the rising process immediately. In the case of double-acting baking powder, oven heat causes a second burst of rising power. Eggs can also be used to leaven quick breads. This genre includes most biscuits, muffins, popovers and a wide variety of sweet and savory loaf breads.

BASIC QUICK BREAD

Ingredients:

2 cups (480 ml) (250 gm/9 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour

1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) granulated sugar

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking soda

1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) fine sea salt or table salt

1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk or soured milk

1 large egg, room temperature

1/4 cup (60 ml) mild- or non-flavored oil, like canola

1 teaspoon (5 ml) flavored extract, such as vanilla or almond

100 g dried fruit/nuts/chocolate chips

For the Glaze

1/3 cup (80 ml) (35 gm/1-1/3 oz) confectioners’ (icing) sugar

1-2 teaspoons (5-10 ml) milk

Method:

  • Preheat oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4. Grease a 9×5 inch (23×13 centimeter) loaf pan with butter.
  • Line with parchment paper cut to fit length and width of pan, with enough overhang to allow easy removal after baking.

  • Grease the top sheet of parchment. In large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking soda and salt to combine.
  • Make a well in the center and set aside. Lightly whisk (butter)milk, egg, oil, and extract to combine.

  • To make soured milk, combine 1 cup milk (240 ml) with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vinegar or lemon juice and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • Pour into well and stir until just mixed into a batter. The batter will be lumpy and may still show a few streaks of flour.

  • Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  • Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely before slicing. Drizzle with glaze, if desired.

  • For the glaze, slowly whisk confectioners’ (icing) sugar and half of the milk, adding more milk as needed to thin the glaze to the desired consistency. Makes one 9” x 5” (23×13 cm) loaf.

Quick Bread Primer

Quick breads can be sweet or savory, they are a modern innovation they became common after the introduction of baking powder and baking soda. Baking powder is a combination of acid and alkaline that reacts together when moistened to form gases that raises the baked quick bread. Usage: 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup of flour. Baking soda (an alkaline salt, sodium bicarbonate) is used when the liquid is acidic, such as buttermilk, honey, molasses, tomato sauce etc. Usage: ½ to 1 teaspoon per cup of acidic liquid. Be sure your baking powder and baking soda are fresh. Measure ingredients accurately, using the measuring tools and techniques suggested.

Preheat the oven to the correct baking temperature. Arrange racks so that the bread will bake in the center of the oven which has the best heat distribution in the oven. To allow for good air circulation while baking, leave at least 1 inch of space between pans and between pans and sides of oven. Switch pan positions and rotate pans halfway through baking. The two top secrets to moist, tender quick bread is 1) in the mixing, always use a quick light technique so you don’t over-mix the batter 2) don’t over-bake since this cause dryness in the final baked product.

AUNTY ANN’S PRUNE BREAD

Ingredients:

2 cups (480 ml) (450 gm/16 oz) granulated sugar

1 cup (240 ml) mild- or non-flavored oil, like canola

3 large eggs, room temperature

2 small (70 gm/2½ oz) containers of strained prunes baby food

2½ cup (600 ml) (350 gm/12-1/3 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour

½ teaspoon (2½ ml)(1 gm) ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm/1/3 oz) baking soda

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) table salt

1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

1 cup (240 ml) well-shaken buttermilk

Method:

  • Preheat oven to moderate 325ºF/165°C/gas mark 3. Dump all ingredients in a bowl.

  • Start to mix. Once everything in incorporated stop mixing. Fill two greased 8” x 5” (20 x 13 cm) loaf pans about ¾ full.

  • Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into middle of loaf comes out clean. Makes two 8” x 5” (20 x 13 cm) loaves.

Quick breads can be created by the following methods:

  • Muffin (or the two-bowl) Method – The dry and wet ingredients are kept separate and then are combined quickly and gingerly by adding the wet to the dry, and folding the two together with only a few strokes. The idea is to not over-mix, basically moistening the ingredients and leaving the batter slightly lumpy, with wisps of flour showing (even small lumps are fine) so as not to overdevelop the gluten in the flour which will keep the bread tender. An over mixed batter creates tough and rubbery muffins/quick breads. Since over-mixing will cause “tunnels” – holes where the air bubbles can escape – which will make the quick bread tough.
  • Creaming Method – The butter and sugar are creamed together until smooth and fluffy. Next, the egg and liquid flavoring are added to the butter and sugar mixture. The dry ingredients and other liquids are folded in last. This method is best when baking cakes since a lot of air pockets are added into the mixture. Folding in the ingredients creates even more air pockets to keep the cakes light and fluffy.
  • Cutting in Method – The chilled fat is cut into the flour. The fat results in a flaky texture since the fat melts while in the oven. This method is best used when baking biscuits, scones or pie crusts.

GREEN ONION, CHEDDAR & ASIAGO BEER BATTER BREAD

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon (15 ml) oil

1 cup (240 ml) (100 gm/3½ oz) sliced green (spring) onion

3 cups (720 ml) (420 gm/15 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour

3 tablespoons (45 ml) (45 gm/1½ oz) granulated sugar

2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) baking powder

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt

1 cup (240 ml) (115 gm/4 oz) grated sharp cheddar cheese

½ cup (120 ml) (2 oz) grated Asiago cheese

One (12 fl oz/355 ml) (about 1½ cups) bottle beer (such as amber ale)

¼ cup (60 ml) (55 gm/2 oz) butter, melted and divided

Method:

  • Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5. Spray 9”×5″ (23 x 13 cm) loaf pan with cooking spray.
  • Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add green onion and sauté 3-4 minutes or until tender.
  • Cool to room temperature. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl; make a well in the center.
  • Add onion, cheeses, and beer. Stir just until moist. Spoon batter into pan. Drizzle evenly with 2 tablespoons of butter.
  • Bake for 35 minutes; brush with remaining butter. Bake an additional 23 minutes till wooden pick comes out clean.
  • Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan and cool completely. Makes one 9” x 5” (23 x 13 cm) loaf.

Depending on the recipe and the type of quick bread, there are also three different types of batter:

– Pour Batter: This type of batter has a dry:liquid ratio of 1:1. Because of so much liquid in this type of batter, the result is very moist and dense.

– Drop Batter: This batter has a dry:liquid ratio of 3:1. This batter will result in a moist but fluffy baked good.

– Stiff Dough: This batter has a dry:liquid ratio of 7:1 This batter will result in a very light and fluffy baked good.

Lower gluten flours are best to make quick breads you can replace 4 tablespoons in each cup of all-purpose flour with cake flour in most recipes or replace 2 tablespoons in each cup of all-purpose flour with corn flour (cornstarch) if you wish to lower the gluten levels of your flour. Flour should be sifted to aerate it which gives more rise therefore a lighter crumb to the final baked goods.

Add fruit, nuts, etc. after lightly combining the wet and dry ingredients. Then give the batter one more light-handed stir and you’re done. Is the batter still thick and lumpy? That’s exactly what you want. If you’re adding dried fruit, try soaking it first. This will moisten the fruit, make it tender and juicy, and also preserve the bread’s moisture. Don’t sprinkle dried fruit on top of quick bread before baking, as it will burn before the loaf is done. To lower the fat, for example, you can substitute some (or all) of the oil with an equal amount of almost any fruit puree (apple sauce, plum baby food, pumpkin puree, mashed bananas).

Glaze your baked quick breads for a nice finishing touch and burst of flavor. Make a simple mixture of confectioners’ (icing) sugar and a little milk or fruit juice. Try orange and lemon juices, for their fragrant, tart zing; add curls of zest for extra color and flavor. For most quick mix recipes as a general rule – less butter and sugar in a recipe makes it more bread-like, while more butter and sugar produces something closer to cake. To prevent moist quick breads from spoiling, let them cool completely after baking. Then wrap them tightly in foil or plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. If your bread is made with cheese, cream cheese or other perishable foods, it should be refrigerated.

Quick breads such as banana, zucchini and cranberry slice and taste best when served a day after baking. Wrap the cooled bread in foil or plastic wrap; leave at room temperature overnight. Others like cornbread and coffee cakes are best served warm. The quick bread is done if a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. If it is not done, test again in a few more minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, unless recipe directs otherwise. Turn loaves out onto a wire rack to cool. Most quick bread should be cooled completely before slicing to prevent crumbling. Using a sawing motion, cut loaves with a thin sharp knife. Use a serrated knife for quick breads that have fruits and/or nuts.

PUMPKIN MUFFINS WITH MAPLE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Ingredients:

For the Filling

2 (225 gm/8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup (60 ml) (55 gm/2 oz) white granulated sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk (1%, 2% or skim or can even splurge and use cream!)

1 teaspoon (5 ml) maple extract or 1 tablespoon (15 ml) maple syrup

For the Bread

3 cups (720 ml) 675 gm/24 oz)white granulated sugar

1 3/4 cup (420 ml) (425 gm/15 oz) (pumpkin purée (or 1 can (15 oz) solid-packed pumpkin – NOT pumpkin pie filling)

1 cup (240 ml) light- or non-flavored oil, like canola

1 cup (240 ml) water

4 large eggs, room temperature

4 cup (960 ml) (560 gm/19¾ oz) all-purpose, unbleached flour

2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm/1/3 oz) baking soda

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder

2 teaspoons (10 ml) (4 gm) ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1 gm) ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt

1/4 teaspoon (1¼ ml) (½ gm) ground cloves (I omitted this)

1/2 cup (120 ml) (115 gm/4 oz) chopped pecans (Optional)

1/2 cup (120 ml) (115 gm/4 oz) chopped walnuts (Optional)

1 cup (240 ml) (100 gm/3½ oz) currants or raisins (Optional)

Method:

  • Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Spray three 8”×4″ (20 x 10 cm) loaf pans with cooking spray.
  • Beat the cream cheese, sugar, egg and milk in a small bowl until creamy, add your maple extract or syrup and blend.

  • Set aside for now. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, pumpkin, oil, water and eggs.
  • In another large bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.

  • Now gradually add the dry ingredients to your wet. Stir in the nuts and/or dried fruit if using.
  • Pour half of the batter into three flour-greased 8″ x 4″ (20 x 10 cm) loaf pans.

  • Spoon the filling over the batter. Use a spatula to spread it out carefully.
  • Add the remaining batter making sure you completely cover the filling.

  • Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in the pans.
  • Move to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes three 8”x 4” (20 x 10 cm) loaves.

Common Problems and Troubleshooting

Bread sticks to pan. Unless you’re using high-quality non-stick metal or silicone baking pans, you should always grease the pans before you pour in the batter. The best thing to use for greasing the pan is shortening, because its melting point is higher than any other kind of fat, which helps maintain a “shield” between pan and batter while the bread is baking. A high-quality cooking spray–one that won’t bake on to your pans and discolour them–is also a fast, easy fix. You can also prevent sticking by removing the bread from the pan sooner: let the bread cool for at least twenty minutes in order to set (Bundt loaves should cool twice as long) before inverting.

There are big holes and “tunnels” in the bread, and/or the bread is tough. These problems are usually caused by over-mixing. There’s a big crack down the middle of the quick bread loaf. Don’t worry–it’s normal for quick breads. The crack on top happens when top of the loaf “sets” in the heat of the oven before the bread is finished rising. Drizzle the loaf with icing or dust with icing sugar.

My blueberry muffins look green! By reacting with the alkaline baking soda, the blueberries’ pigments can turn green. Toss the berries with the flour mixture before combining the ingredients; the coating should help. If you’re using frozen berries, don’t thaw them before using them.

The bread looks done on the outside but it’s still raw in the middle. This is one of the most common quick bread problems, and it can be caused by a few different factors. The oven temperature could be too high. Use an oven thermometer to check: they’re cheap and available at most supermarkets. Try lowering the oven temperature and/or putting a loose tent of foil over the top of the bread so it won’t burn before the middle has time to catch up.

Another cause of “raw center” syndrome could be using a different pan than the recipe calls for. One of the nice things about quick breads is that you can use the same batter to make muffins, mini loaves, jumbo loaves, or rounds. But each size requires different baking times–and some require different baking temperatures. The larger and thicker the loaf, the longer it’s going to take to bake. If you’re using a different size pan than your recipe calls for, adjust the baking time accordingly and check the bread often.

MEYER LEMON LOAF/MUFFINS

Ingredients:

For the Loaf

2 2/3 cups (640 ml) (375 gm/13¼ oz) all-purpose (plain)unbleached flour

¾ teaspoon (3¾ ml) (3¾ gm) baking powder

zest of 3 Meyer lemons (regular old lemons will work just fine)

2 cups (480 ml) (450 gm/16 oz) white granulated sugar

6 large eggs, at room temperature

¾ cup (180 ml) sour cream or creme fraiche, at room temperature

2 tablespoons (30 ml) rum (can omit)

1½ tablespoons (22½ ml) fresh Meyer lemon juice (regular lemons can be used)

pinch of salt

9 tablespoons (135 ml) (125 gm/4½ oz/1 stick + 1 tablespoon) butter, melted and cooled

For the Simple Syrup

½ cup (120 ml) (115 gm/4 oz) granulated sugar

½ cup (120 ml) water

Juice from 1 medium Meyer Lemon (or regular lemon)

Method:

  • Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Butter and flour two 8” x 5” (20 x 13 cm) loaf pans.
  • Sift together flour and baking powder; set aside. Place sugar, lemon zest, and eggs into a large mixing bowl.
  • Beat with a whisk until the mixture is a light lemon color and thickened a bit. This can also be done with a mixer.

  • Whisk in sour cream, then salt, then rum (if using) and lemon juice. Gently whisk in the flour in four parts.
  • Then whisk in the butter in three parts. You’ll have a thick, pourable batter flecked with lemon zest.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until tester inserted in center comes out clean.

  • While the loaves are baking, prepare simple syrup. Boil together sugar and water and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  • Remove from heat and add the lemon juice. Turn the loaves out of their pans onto a cooling rack.
  • Brush liberally with syrup, repeat brushing as you feel necessary. Let cool. Makes two 8” x 5” (20 x 13 cm) loaves.

Storage & Freezing Instructions

  • Loaves can be kept wrapped tightly on the counter or in the fridge for approximately 5 to 7 days.
  • Loaves last 6 months if wrapped tightly and kept air tight in the freezer.
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