Discover the secrets to making moist, tender quick breads every time!
What’s Quick Bread?
“Quick bread” refers to any bread that uses leaveners like baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast and requires no kneading or rising time. The definition includes pancakes, waffles, scones, biscuits, coffeecakes, muffins, and loaves. These breads and muffins keep well, they’re tasty breakfasts, snacks, and sides, and they’re great as gifts, too!
Quick breads are always popular; blueberry muffins and zucchini bread in summer, pumpkin muffins in the fall, or coffeecakes and banana bread, well, any time!
Quick and Versatile
More versatile than most other baked goods, quick breads give you greater freedom to add ingredients (like nuts and dried fruit) and make substitutions.
To lower the fat, for example, you can substitute some of the oil with an equal amount of almost any fruit puree (applesauce, plum baby food, pumpkin puree, mashed bananas).
Soaking Dried Fruit
If you’re adding dried fruit, try soaking it first. This will moisten the fruit, make it tender and juicy, and also preserve the bread’s moisture.
- To soak dried fruit, place it in a heatproof bowl and pour over just enough boiling water to cover. Let it soak about 15 minutes, then drain and add to the finished batter.
- For added flavor, soak fruit in hot apple or orange juice–or soak it overnight in whiskey, rum, or brandy. Don’t sprinkle dried fruit on top of quick bread before baking, as it will burn before the loaf is done.
Glazing Quick Breads
Glaze your baked quick breads for a nice finishing touch and burst of flavor. Make a simple mixture of confectioners’ sugar and a little milk or fruit juice. Try orange and lemon juices, for their fragrant, tart zing; add curls of zest for extra color and flavor.
Mixing the Batter
The secret to moist, tender quick bread is in the mixing: use a gentle touch. Combine in a bowl the dry ingredients–flour, leavener, salt, and spices; sift them together or 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 puree, flavorings, or extracts) 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. Add nuts and fruits; stir just until incorporated. Over-mixing will cause “tunnels”–holes where the air bubbles escaped–and will make the bread tough.
Try these fixes to common problems:
- Bread sticks to the pan. Unless you’re using high-quality nonstick metal or silicone baking pans, you should always grease the pans before you pour in the batter. The best thing to use for greasing the pan is shortening, because its melting point is higher than any other kind of fat, which helps maintain a “shield” between pan and batter while the bread is baking. A high-quality cooking spray–one that won’t bake on to your pans and discolor them–is also a fast, easy fix. You can also prevent sticking by removing the bread from the pan sooner: let the bread cool for at least twenty minutes in order to set (Bundt loaves should cool twice as long) before inverting the pan.
- There are big holes and “tunnels” in the bread, and/or the bread is tough. These problems are usually caused by over-mixing. See above, Mixing the Batter, about mixing technique.
- There’s a big crack down the middle of the quick bread loaf. The crack on top happens when top of the loaf “sets” in the heat of the oven before the bread is finished rising. Don’t worry–it’s normal for quick breads. Drizzle the loaf with icing or dust with confectioners’ sugar.
- My blueberry muffins look green! By reacting with the alkaline baking soda, the blueberries’ pigments can turn green. Toss the berries with the flour mixture before combining the ingredients; the coating should help. If you’re using frozen berries, don’t thaw them before using them.
- The bread looks done on the outside but it’s still raw in the middle. This is one of the most common quick bread problems, and it can be caused by a few different factors. The oven temperature could be too high. (Use an oven thermometer to check: they’re cheap and available at most supermarkets.)
- Try lowering the oven temperature and/or putting a loose tent of foil over the top of the bread so it won’t burn before the middle has time to catch up.
- Another cause of “raw center” syndrome could be using a different pan than the recipe calls for. One of the nice things about quick breads is that you can use the same batter to make muffins, mini loaves, jumbo loaves, or rounds. But each size requires different baking times–and some require different baking temperatures. The larger and thicker the loaf, the longer it’s going to take to bake. If you’re using a different size pan than your recipe calls for, adjust the baking time accordingly and check the bread often.