Seasonings: A starter-guide to making bread that everyone can follow easily 

‘Quick Breads 2.0’

BY ALETHEA PRICE

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on quick breads. 

While baking yeast bread may be intimidating to some people, there are some “quick” options to get you started in the kitchen. 

Muffins, coffeecakes, scones, waffle, and pancakes are all breads that can be made in a short period of time and with very little effort. The difference between yeast breads and quick breads is the leavening agent. Yeast is a living cell that multiplies rapidly when given the proper food, moisture and warmth. It must “proof,” or rise to allow the production of carbon dioxide that makes the bread rise during baking. 

Quick breads use the chemical leavening agents of baking powder and/or baking soda. Baking powder and baking soda do not require time for rising, so the batter for quick bread is cooked immediately after mixing. The best thing about quick breads is that the options are limitless when it comes to ingredients. The limiting factor in good quick breads is the correct mixing. Over mixing or under mixing will result in a poor quality product.

Different quick bread batters are created by varying the ingredients and combining them in a certain way to form the structure of the bread. You can use whatever you have on hand. Making a quick bread could help prevent waste in the kitchen. Over-ripe bananas are perfect for banana bread. 

The possibilities are endless, but the common factor is the basic ingredients of fat, sugar, eggs, flour, liquid, leavening agent and a flavoring ingredient. The flavoring might be a fruit or vegetable, a liquid such as buttermilk or fruit juice, an extract, herbs or spices. Depending how the ingredients are mixed together will determine the texture and quality.

Shortening, butter, margarine, and oil are all considered fats and can be used in quick breads depending on the desired texture. In addition to adding flavor and moisture, fat combines with sugar during creaming to add lightness by trapping air that expands during baking. This lightness makes the quick bread tender, forming a finer grain in the baked quick bread. To reduce calories, you can reduce one-half to all of the fat by using fruit or vegetable purees in place of the fat. Applesauce is a great substitute.

Sugar adds sweetness and flavor but also aids in browning, tenderizing, keeping the final quick bread moist, and acting as a preservative to increase the shelf life. Sugar acts as a tenderizer by absorbing water and inhibiting flour gluten development and by incorporating air into shortening during the creaming process. It caramelizes under heat, providing quick breads with a pleasing color and aroma. You can reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe by one-third to one-half with little change in texture. Adding dried fruits, spices, or extracts will help to replace some of the sweetness, if you leave out one-half of the sugar. Good vanilla extract makes everything taste better. That was my mom’s secret to all her delicious baked goods, a teaspoon of vanilla.

Eggs provide structure and help bind the ingredients together. Eggs also act as an emulsifier. By surrounding small particles of fat, the egg helps make the quick bread batter smoother, thus contributing to volume and texture. In addition, when eggs are beaten, they incorporate tiny air bubbles that expand with heat in the oven, contributing to volume. Eggs should be left at room temperature for about 30 minutes, as more air can be incorporated during mixing. Eggs also add moisture, color, flavor, and nutritional value. Generally, recipes call for large eggs.

The most common liquid ingredients in quick breads are milk and water. The liquid moistens the batter, helps activate the gluten in the flour, and dissolves the sugar in the recipe. Some recipes, such as biscuits and pancakes call for buttermilk. Straight out of the bottle, buttermilk doesn’t seem too appealing. When used in a quick bread it can add great flavor. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, mix 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice and let that stand for 5 minutes before incorporating it into the recipe.

Next week we will get into flour, leavening agents and how all these ingredients work well together.

Basic nut bread

2/3 cup sugar

½ cup shortening

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup chopped nuts

¾ cup buttermilk or fruit juice

Cream sugar and shortening; add vanilla and blend thoroughly. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour with baking powder and salt; stir nuts into dry ingredients. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk or fruit juice to creamed mixture; mix just enough to blend ingredients. Pour into a greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. This helps prevent large crack in loaf top. Bake at 350°F for about 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into center of loaf remains free of batter. Remove bread from oven; let cool for 5 minutes in pan. Turn loaf out of pan onto cake rack and cool. Bread is best if stored 24 hours before serving. To serve: slice in thin pieces.

Buttermilk biscuits

2 cup self-rising flour

¼ cup shortening, chilled

2⁄3 to ¾ cup buttermilk

In a large mixing bowl, cut shortening into flour until lumps are the size of peas. Blend in enough milk to form a soft dough. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to ½-inch thick. Cut into 2-inch biscuits. Place ½-inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 450°F for 8 to 10 minutes

If you have questions or comments about the column, or if you’d like more information feel free to contact me by email at thekitchenagent@gmail.com.