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Quick Breads for the Holidays

by Cheryl Hill-Burrier

These days everyone has to multi-task just to keep up, but is it possible that bread can do the same and be quick, easy and fail-safe to make? You bet your buns it is! Quick Breads are so simple and so incredibly versatile that I call them the Yeastless Transformers. That's right; many quick bread recipes can be transformed into delicious edibles other than bread. So read on and be amazed.

The quick bread is an American invention that developed during the late 18th century when pearl ash (made of wood ash) was discovered. Pearl ash produced carbon dioxide gas in the dough allowing it to rise faster than yeast dough. Today, the process of making quick breads is accomplished by using baking powder or baking soda, which allows the dough to rise in the oven, as opposed to the forever-and-a-day chore of making yeast breads.

The five main ingredients generally used are flour, leavener (baking soda or baking powder), fat (butter, margarine, shortening or oil), eggs and milk. Note that the dough or batter is generally thin in comparison to yeast bread dough. What is unique about quick breads is that all recipes are not made into loaves. Quick breads also include the beloved tortilla, scones, pancakes, waffles, biscuits, muffins, doughnuts and coffee or Bundt cakes. The ingredients you choose, in addition to those listed above, are limited only by your personal taste and imagination and can include anything from beer to herbs, fruits to nuts, and vegetables to candy.

The size and type of pan you use depends on what you want to do with the recipe. An average loaf pan is 9x5x3 inches; however, mini-loaf pans, which are generally 5x3x2 inches are extremely popular (and my favorite) to use for breakfast, dinner, dessert, parties, and they make great gifts. Other pans include the standard 12-cup muffin pan and the bundt cake pan, which comes in 12-cup, 10-cup and 6-cup sizes. One average loaf recipe will generally make 3 mini-loaves, 12 muffins, 18 biscuits, or 15-16 pancakes.

A couple of helpful hints: over-stirring your batter in an attempt to remove all of the lumps can cause holes, tunnels and a tougher texture, so don't overwork the batter. Most quick bread recipes instruct the cook to stir in the dry ingredients "just until moistened." Also, keep in mind that you should begin baking soon after the batter is mixed or the leaveners may begin to break down. Finally, make sure your baking powder is fresh. If your opened can of baking powder has been loitering on the back of a shelf for several months, it would be a good idea to invest in a fresh can. Baking powder loses its punch over time.

Cooking times may vary depending upon whether your oven temperature is calibrated correctly, as well as the type of quick bread recipe or pan size used. Large loaves, Bundt and coffee cakes usually take about 50 to 60 minutes, while mini-loaves and muffins take about 30 to 35 minutes, and biscuits about 10 to 12 minutes. If you're unsure of your oven's calibration, try setting your oven timer for 10 minutes sooner than the recipe calls for, then test for doneness by placing a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean (without batter), it's done. If not, start setting your timer for 5-minute increments, checking each time until done. Make a note on your recipe for future reference.

Store your breads in sealed containers, plastic wrap or baggies; they will stay fresh at room temperature for approximately three days, refrigerated for one week, and frozen for up to three months. To reheat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then wrap in foil and place in a 300°F oven for about 10 to 15 minutes. Breads can also be warmed using the microwave on a low setting for about 10 to 15 seconds, depending on the thickness. To avoid drying the bread out, place about 1/4 cup of water in the microwave at the same time.

Lone Star Beer Quick Bread (or Jalapeño Cheddar Quick Bread or Muffins)

  • 1 12-ounce can or bottle of Lone Star (or any) beer, at room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
For Jalapeño Cheddar Bread, add:
  • 2 fresh jalapeños, seeded and deveined, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350-degrees and prepare one 9x5-inch or three 3x5-inch loaf pans with oil and flour, or non-stick baking spray.

Using a large bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, baking powder, and flour. Add beer and continue to stir, until blended (the batter will be sticky). [Note: If making Jalapeño Cheddar bread, mix the chopped jalapeños and shredded cheese into the batter.]

Pour batter into pan or pans and bake 55 to 60 minutes for a large, and 35 to 45 minutes for the smaller loaves. For muffins, use a 12-muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each about 2/3 full and bake about 30 to 35 minutes.

Flour Tortillas

We use tortillas instead of bread for hot dogs, tuna salad, egg salad, meat sandwiches, hors d'oeuvres roll-ups and more. They're well worth the effort, and you'll be proud of yourself.

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 cups warm water
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, mix together the water and oil and gradually add to the flour mixture, stirring with a fork until all of the water and flour are blended. The dough will be sticky.

Place the dough on a floured cutting board and begin to knead with the heels of your hands, sprinkling flour, a little at a time, until the dough becomes smooth and no longer sticky, about 4 or 5 minutes. Put the dough into a clean bowl to rest and cover it with a damp towel for about 15 minutes.

Divide dough into golf ball size balls and roll each into a ball shape. Lightly sprinkle your cutting board and rolling pin and roll out each ball into a 6- or 7-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. They don't have to be perfectly round, but you can trim them with a knife if that's what you're looking for. Warm a large skillet over medium heat and cook the tortilla on each side for about 30 seconds per side. You'll probably see brown spots on the tortillas; that&&39;s normal.

To store, place tortillas in plastic wrap or baggies, making sure to remove as much air as possible. Cooked tortillas can be stored in the refrigerator for one week and freezer for up to three months. Thaw at room temperature and warm in the microwave for 10 to 12 seconds, or wrap in foil and heat in a 250°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Makes about 12 tortillas.

Fredericksburg Peach Cobbler Quick Bread, Muffins or Pancakes

  • 1 15-ounce (or 15.25-ounce) can sliced peaches, drained
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon/sugar topping
Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare pans or muffin tin with oil and flour, or non-stick baking spray.

Place all of the peach slices except for 2 into a blender and purée. You should end up with about 1 cup. Dice the remaining peach slices into 1/4-inch pieces. Pour the puréed and chopped peaches into a large mixing bowl and stir in melted butter, eggs and vanilla.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir dry ingredients into the peach mixture until blended.

For bread, pour batter into a 9x5-inch or three 3x5-inch pans and sprinkle the top with cinnamon/sugar. Bake the large loaf for 55 to 60 minutes (Large loaves can be used to make French Toast!). Bake small loaves for 35 to 40 minutes.

For muffins, place paper muffin liners in each cup and fill each about 2/3 full. Sprinkle cinnamon/sugar over the top, and bake about 30 to 35 minutes. Makes about 12 muffins.

For pancakes, heat a medium-large skillet with 1 tablespoon cooking oil over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup batter into the skillet and give a slight shake to allow the batter to spread out. Cook as you would any pancake, lightly browning each side. Add more cooking oil as needed for each pancake. Serve topped with additional peach slices and cinnamon/sugar, powdered sugar, syrup or whipped cream. Makes 15 to 16 five-inch pancakes.

Cheddar-Garlic Biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • melted butter
Preheat oven to 450°F.

Place flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar into a large bowl and stir until blended. Work in shortening until mixture feels like cornmeal. Pour in the milk and mix well, finally adding the cheddar cheese and garlic, stirring until the dough is smooth. Knead for about 1 to 2 minutes, and then break dough into1/4-cup-size balls and place on a greased and floured cookie sheet. Brush the dough with melted butter and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Makes about 12 biscuits.

Chocolate Cherry Bundt Cake with Butter-Rum Glaze

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5-1/2 ounces dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks butter)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 10-ounce jar maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped (reserve 4 whole cherries)
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
Butter-Rum Glaze
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup light rum
Preheat oven to 325°F, and prepare a 12-cup Bundt pan with oil and flour, or non-stick baking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, melt chocolate and butter, then stir in sugar and vanilla until smooth. Remove stems from maraschino cherries, set aside 4 whole cherries and finely chop the rest.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs and mix in sour cream until well blended. Add the chopped cherries, and stir in the cooled chocolate mixture until well blended. Gradually add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture, blending well.

Cut the 4 whole cherries in half and place, with rounded-side down, on the bottom of the Bundt pan. Evenly sprinkle the chopped nuts over the bottom of the pan. Place batter into the pan by large spoonfuls, lightly smoothing when all of the batter has been added. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes or until cake tests done.

While the cake is baking, prepare glaze by melting the butter. Then stir in sugar until dissolved, remove from heat and add the rum. When the cake is fully baked, flip with cherry-side up onto a cooling rack. While still slightly warm, move to a serving plate and poke small holes completely through the cake using a wooden or metal shish-kabob skewer, then pour the glaze over the cake.

Distribute half-cut cherries and nuts, and then batter in prepared pans. Bake 9x5-inch loaf for 50 to 60 minutes, or three mini-loaf pans for about 35 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool until slightly warm and proceed with glaze instructions.

For muffins, place paper muffin liners in each cup of muffin tin. Reserve six whole cherries and cut in half. Spoon batter into each muffin liner until 2/3 full, place one-half cherry on top of each muffin and sprinkle chopped nuts evenly over each. Bake about 30 to 35 minutes. Allow to cool until slightly warm and proceed with glaze instructions. Makes about 12 muffins.

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