Quick breads are my answer to having fresh bakery midweek or having a hostess gift to grab in a hurry.
"What's so quick about them?" my noncooking friend asked. "You still have to mix them up and bake them."
Yes, my dear, that is quite true. But for those of us who like to make bread, the difference is quite substantial. Quick breads use baking powder or baking soda (or a combination), not yeast, which takes awhile to rise and then rise again.
So, quick breads are quick - if you are a baker. If you are not a baker, all you need to know is that they are simply good, homemade breads that smell heavenly and taste even better.
A baking novice can make them and be as pleased as a professional with the results. In other words, quick breads are hard to mess up and come with big rewards.
The basic batter of a quick bread consists of eggs, sugar, flour, shortening, liquid, flavorings, leavening and your choice of fruits, nuts and seeds - if you choose to add such ingredients. Once you have found a basic recipe that you like, you can try changing it. Add applesauce instead of some of the pumpkin. Use craisins and pumpkin seeds instead of the raisins and walnuts.
What I like about making quick breads this time of year is that I bake them up and freeze them now for redemption later during the busy holiday season. A trio of quick breads tied up with a pretty bow, tucked in a basket, makes a great hostess gift. Take a loaf out of the freezer and take it to work for a great office snack, or leave it on the counter for an after-school snack.
To freeze quick breads
Once baked, remove breads from pans and let cool completely. Wrap tightly in saran wrap, aluminum foil, or place inside a Ziplock bag, removing any air as you seal the bag. Freeze up to six months. When thawing, take out of freezer and let thaw in the wrapping.
I tend to make most of my substitutions when I'm out of something, but you can play around with the ingredients to find just the combination of flavors and textures for you. Here are some tips:
• Use equal amounts of yogurt for sour cream or sour milk.
• Any kind of nuts can be substituted for another in this grouping: pecans, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, soy nuts, macadamia nuts.
• No baking powder? Mix 2 parts cream of tartar with 1 part baking soda.
• No sour milk? Substitute 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar mixed into 1 cup of milk.
• Replace an equal measure of applesauce for up to three-quarters of the oil called for in the recipe.
• No brown sugar? To substitute for 1 cup brown sugar, use 1 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup molasses.
• Substitute 1 square (1 oz.) unsweetened chocolate for 1/4 cup cocoa.
• For 1 cup corn syrup, use 1-1/4 cup white sugar plus 1 cup honey (for light corn syrup) or 1 cup molasses (for dark corn syrup).
Makes 3 mini-loaves or 12 muffins.
2 cups sugar
1 cup salad oil
2 cups zucchini, freshly grated, skin on
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1-1/4 tsps. baking powder
1-3/4 cup flour
Cream together eggs, sugar and oil. Add zucchini and vanilla and blend together. Sift together dry ingredients and add to mixture gradually. Once all dry ingredients have been incorporated, remove from mixer and add additional ingredients from variations.
Grease and flour pans or use paper liners for muffins. Fill tins to about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 F for about 25 minutes for muffins, 30 to 35 minutes for mini loaves. The bread will be done when it bounces back after depressing the center slightly with your finger. Cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and remove from pan. Continue to cool on wire rack.
Variation 1: Add 1/2 cup chopped nuts and 1/2 cup raisins.
Variation 2: Add 1/2 cup candied pineapple and 1/2 cup slivered almonds.
Variation 3: Add 1 cup craisins.
Variation 4: Add 1 cup chopped dates.
Variation 5: Add 1 cup grated apple (skin on) and 1/2 cup quick oatmeal.
Variation 6: Add 1/2 cup cocoa and 2 Tablespoons butter.
Makes 12 muffins, 3 mini loaves or one 10-inch loaf.
2 whole eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup prepared pumpkin
1/2 cup salad oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1-2/3 cups flour
In mixer bowl, cream together eggs, sugar and pumpkin. Mix in salad oil and water. Sift together dry ingredients and add gradually while continuing to beat. Mix until smooth. Divide batter between greased and floured bread pans. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour (smaller loaves will take less time).
The bread is done when you push on the center of bread with your finger and the bread springs back. If you leave an indent, it is not done. You can also test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into center of loaf; if it comes out clean, it is done. Cool for five minutes in pan, then run knife along edges of pan and invert to remove loaf. Complete cooling on a bread rack. The reason you want to cool the bread on a rack is so that the bottom doesn't get soggy; it will if left sitting flat on a counter or pan.
Fresh apple pound cake
This is a recipe I originally discovered at Hafs Orchard in Beloit, Wisconsin; it's very moist and heavy with apples. You also can make this in a bundt pan.
Makes 1 10-inch loaf or 3 mini loaves
1-1/2 cup cooking oil
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsps. vanilla
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup chopped nuts
1-1/2 cups apples, peeled, cored, chopped coarse
In mixer, combine oil, eggs and sugar and mix for 3 minutes. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt and add to egg mixture; mix well. Remove from mixer and stir in vanilla, cinnamon, nuts, and apples.
Prepare a 10-inch bread pan by oiling and flouring the pan. Pour the batter into the pan and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Remove from oven, let cool for five minutes. Run a knife along the edge and invert. Serve as is or dust with powdered sugar when cool. Store in the refrigerator.