Bread in a jiffy

Portable, sharable baked goods are a snap to make

The Modesto BeeNovember 28, 2012 

The idea came together in a flash. Someone mentioned quick breads, and everybody jumped on the bandwagon.

That’s the beauty of quick breads: Mix, bake, take, share. They are sweet or savory, studded with fruits or nuts, and full of flavor and endless possibilities. Our gathering featured four sweet and two savory loaves.

Quick breads are in the same family as muffins and scones, and rely on baking powder and baking soda for rising. The chemicals in the soda or powder react with acids to produce carbon dioxide, the gas that gives baked goods their lift. Baking powder and soda are not interchangeable, though, because baking powder is baking soda mixed with cornstarch and a dry acid.

If you find yourself without baking powder, “The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook” offers this recipe for a “passable substitution”: Replace each teaspoon of baking powder with 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.

For best results with these recipes, use baking powder and baking soda before their “best by” dates. If baking powder is nearing expiration, check to see whether it is still active by mixing 2 teaspoons of it in a cup of hot water. If the foaming reaction is weak, toss it.

Tips for perfect loaves

Don’t overmix batter. Too much mixing can result in loaves not properly rising, turning out tough and possibly with tunnels through them.

Tent loaves with aluminum foil once they begin to brown to prevent overbrowning.

Shiny pans reflect heat, but dark pans absorb heat so baked goods brown more quickly. If using dark pans, lower heat by 25 degrees.

Store loaves for 24 hours before slicing. Or freeze and slice with a serrated-edge knife.

GOLDEN PUMPKIN LOAF

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

11/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

3 large eggs

11/4 cups dark brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup granulated sugar

11/2 cups pumpkin puree

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5 loaf pan, and line bottom and along sides with parchment paper.

Mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs and both sugars on medium-high speed until creamy and thick, for about 3 minutes. Reduce speed, then add pumpkin, vanilla and oil and continue mixing until smooth.

On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients a little at a time, mixing only until the flour just disappears.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Scrape the bowl up from the bottom and fold in the cranberries and walnuts. Transfer to prepared pans.

Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until loaf is well browned and a knife inserted emerges clean from the center. Cool in pan for 15 minutes before turning out. PRALINE-APPLE BREAD

11/2 cups chopped pecans

1 (8-ounce) container sour cream

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

11/2 cups finely chopped, peeled Granny Smith apples (3/4 pound)

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 1/2 cup pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan for 6-8 minutes, or until toasted and fragrant, stirring after 4 minutes.

Beat sour cream and the next three ingredients on low speed with an electric mixer for 2 minutes until blended. Stir together the flour and next three ingredients. Add to sour cream mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in apple and 1/2 cup toasted pecans.

Spoon batter into a greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with remaining pecans.

Lightly press pecans into batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, shielding with aluminum foil after 50 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool in pan for 10 minutes.

Remove from pan to wire rack.

Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, and spoon over top of bread. POLENTA LOAF WITH ROSEMARY, PARMESAN AND OLIVE OIL 2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup (5-ounces) polenta

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated course (1 cup)

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup sugar

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 large eggs

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Whisk flour, polenta, rosemary, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan, breaking up any clumps, until coated with flour.

In a separate bowl, whisk sour cream, milk, sugar, oil and eggs together until smooth. Gently fold sour cream mixture into flour mixture until just combined; do not overmix.

Pour into greased loaf pan or greased muffin tins. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.

Bake until golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 15-20 minutes for muffins, 40-50 minutes for loaf pan. Cool before inverting.

Note: Cornmeal can be used in place of the polenta. It will result in a more cake-like texture. IOZZA’S CORN AND BACON LOAF 12 ounces hardwood-smoked bacon, chopped

1 ear corn, husked

21/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

11/4 cups whole milk

3 large eggs

2 cups grated sharp white cheddar, divided use

cup coarsely chopped fresh chives

Salted butter, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the bacon in a large heavy saute pan over medium heat for 8 minutes, or until browned and crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels. Brush loaf with bacon drippings from the pan. Set aside 1/2 cup of bacon drippings to cool.

Slice corn kernels off the cob. You should have 1 cup.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne pepper in a large bowl to blend. Whisk milk, eggs and reserved bacon drippings in another large bowl. To this stir in the bacon, 11/2 cups cheese, corn and chives. Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture just until blended. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle tops with remaining cheese. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve with butter.

If baking these as muffins, bake for 18 minutes.

Source: “Piece of Cake: Home Baking Made Simple,” by David Muniz and David Lesniak (Rizzoli, $29.95). Source: “Southern Living Home Cooking Basics: Great Food Made Simple” (Oxmoor House, $29.95). Makes 1 loaf Source: “The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook,” by editors at America’s Test Kitchen ($34.95). Makes 1 loaf Source: “Relaxed Cooking With Curtis Stone” (Clarkson Potter, $32.50).

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