Blueberry muffins for a special brunch, zucchini bread from the monstrous squash your neighbor gave you last summer, banana bread anytime you bought more fruit than you could handle, or pumpkin spice loaves for holiday gifts.... Quick bread is popular year-round. It's versatile, it's a crowd-pleaser, it's easy, and, as the name implies, it's quick!
The term 'quick bread' refers to any bread that uses chemical leaveners (baking powder and/or baking soda) as opposed to yeast, and requires no kneading or rising time. The definition includes pancakes, waffles, scones, biscuits, coffee cakes, muffins and loaves. Usually when we say 'quick bread,' though, we most often think of the last two.
Muffins and loaves keep well, they're great for breakfast, snacks and side dishes, they're handy for using up any abundance of fruit you may have, and they're great to give as gifts, too! As fast and easy as quick breads are to make, there are a few pointers we have for you so you can make your muffins and loaves even better.
Quick bread recipes are fairly versatile -- you can add and substitute ingredients with greater freedom than you can with most other baked goods. To lower the fat, you can substitute some of the oil with an equal amount of almost any fruit puree (applesauce, baby food prunes, pumpkin puree, mashed bananas). You can add nuts and dried fruits to your heart's content, and substitute one kind of nut, dried fruit or fresh fruit for another.
When you use dried fruit in a quick bread recipe, try soaking the fruit first. Not only will this make the fruit moist and tender, but adding moisture to the fruit before you put it into the batter will also preserve the moisture of the bread because the fruit will soak up less moisture from the batter while it bakes. Place the dried fruit in a heatproof bowl and pour just enough boiling water over it to cover it up. Let it soak for 15 minutes or so, then drain and add to the finished batter. If you want to get fancy, you can even soak the fruit in hot apple or orange juice. Or, soak the fruit overnight in whiskey or rum to add a twist of sophistication. Don't sprinkle dried fruit on top of the quick bread before baking - it will get dried out and burnt, and won't make a very attractive or tasty topper.
Add a finishing touch and a burst of flavor to finished quick breads by glazing them! Allow them to cool somewhat, and then make a simple mixture of confectioners' sugar and a little milk or fruit juice. Some especially popular choices are orange and lemon juice, for the fragrant, tart zing they add.
The Magic is in the Mixing
The real secret to perfectly moist, tender and well-shaped quick bread is to be scrupulously careful in your mixing. Combine the dry ingredients - flour, leavener, salt and spices - in one bowl and mix them thoroughly with a wire whisk. In another bowl, beat together the fat, sugar and eggs in the order the recipe advises. Stir any other ingredients - fruit or fruit puree, nuts, flavorings - into the wet ingredients. Only when each bowl of ingredients is mixed thoroughly should they be combined. When you are ready, pour the dry ingredients into the wet ones and fold them together gently. Do this part by hand rather than with a mixer so you can use a gentle touch. Only stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Don't worry about a few lumps-they will disappear during baking.
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