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Quick Breads

The best thing about quick breads isn’t that they’re quick, though that’s certainly a bonus. (With no rising of yeast or shaping of dough to slow you down, you can have a quick bread batter in the oven in just minutes.) Even better, though—quick breads are delicious. And versatile. A quick bread can round out a soup lunch, serve as a festive appetizer or dessert, or provide a healthful after-school boost.

You can vary quick breads by using an array of nuts, dried or fresh fruits, and sweeteners. Include nutrition boosters like wheat germ, oats, and powdered milk. Try different pans (loaf pans, muffin tins, shaped baking pans, even cans). And whether you’re starting with an heirloom recipe or are inventing your own signature loaf as you go, use spices to make your quick breads richly distinctive.

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Rosemary Saffron Cornbread
clean taste of rosemary and the lovely color of saffron distinguish this light, northern cornbread.

A Date with Maple Loaf
This is a dense quick bread, a bit like fruit cake, but without the reputation. Serve each slice with a dollop of vanilla yogurt on top.

cranberry muffinsCrazy for Cranberry Muffins
Try this healthful muffin for breakfast—or any time you want something to satisfy your sweet tooth and your need for a nutritious snack. Blueberries work as well—visually and taste-wise—as the cranberries.

Cardamom Almond Banana Bread
The aroma of this loaf will make it hard for you to wait until it cools to cut it! Serve it warm, then, with cream cheese.

Spiced Maple Pecan Pumpkin Bread
Sugar and spice and everything nice — including pecans, pumpkin puree and maple syrup — combine for a quick bread sure to become a family favorite.

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Ask the Experts

What’s the difference between baking powder and baking soda?
Both baking powder and baking soda are used to make baked goods rise; they’re called leavening agents. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. When combined with moisture and an acidic ingredient (like buttermilk or lemon juice), a chemical reaction produces bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand during baking, causing the batter to rise. This action begins in the bowl, so batters made with baking soda should be mixed and quickly slid into the oven (don’t mix ahead); otherwise, they may rise too quickly and then “fall” in the oven.

baking powderBaking powder contains baking soda as well as an acidic ingredient (cream of tartar). Single acting baking powder rises as soon as it’s activated by moisture. It needs to be put in the oven quickly. Double-acting baking powder has two reactions—one when the ingredients are combined in the bowl and another during baking, once it reaches higher temperatures.

In general, you can’t substitute one for another in a recipe. But you can make your own baking powder by combining two parts cream of tartar with one part baking soda.

What’s a scone? What kind of spices can I use to flavor scones?
A scone is a Scottish quick bread. Traditionally they were triangular only and baked on a griddle. Today you can find round and square scones, most often baked in an oven. You can vary a basic scone recipe by adding a wide range of dried fruits, nuts, sweets (like chocolate chips) and spices. Try raisin scones with cinnamon and allspice, lemon scones with cardamom, chocolate chip scones with nutmeg, and molasses scones with ginger, for example.

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Tips for Quick Bread Baking

Quick breads couldn’t be easier to prepare. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another, combine and pour into your greased baking pan. Keeping these tips in mind will provide the very best results, though.:

  • sconesMeasure leavening correctly. Too much baking powder or baking soda may give your quick breads a bitter aftertaste. It can also make them too dry and crumbly and cause them to rise too quickly in the oven and then fall. Not enough, on the other hand, can leave you with a cloying, heavy texture.
  • Stir your batter until the ingredients are just combined. A few lumps are fine, and over mixing will make your bread rubbery.
  • To test for doneness, insert a toothpick or a sharp knife into the center of your bread. If it comes out clean, it’s ready.
  • To keep your quick bread from crumbling when you slice it, it’s a good idea (if not always practical) to let it cool before slicing. When you do slice, use a sharp knife in a sawing motion (rather than pressing downward).
  • Don’t worry about that crack on the top of your quick bread. It’s par for the course and won’t affect the taste at all.
  • If you want to use a different pan for your recipe (muffin tins, corn sticks, even cans), just fill 1/2 to 2/3 full of batter and adjust the baking time. (If using mini pans, for example, decrease baking time by half.)
  • Don’t overfull your muffin tins or the muffins will be misshapen. To avoid tunnels n your muffins, don’t over mix or use too high a baking temperature.
  • To keep small pieces of fruit (like raisins) and nuts from sinking to the bottom of the pan during baking, dust them with flour before adding to your batter.
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