How to Bake the Best Quick Breads
Recipe pictured above: Maple Banana Bread
What is Quick Bread?
Quick breads definitely live up to their name. They're so quick and easy because they don't require yeast, kneading, or extra time to rise. Instead of yeast, they use leaveners like baking powder or baking soda to create the bubbles in the batter that makes the bread rise as it bakes. Pancakes, waffles, scones, tortillas, and biscuits are all examples of quick breads, too.
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 ingredient substitutions.
One of the great things about quick breads is that you can use the same batter to make loaves, muffins, coffeecakes, and Bundt cakes. But note that 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. So if you're using a different size baking pan than your recipe calls for, be sure to adjust the baking time accordingly — and check the bread often.
Favorite Quick Bread Recipes
Quick breads are always popular; blueberry muffins and zucchini bread in summer, pumpkin muffins in the fall, or banana bread any time.
Watch the video and try this recipe for Banana Pumpkin Bread:
How to Mix Quick Bread Batter
Quick bread batters are made up of dry ingredients and wet ingredients. For best results, mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Combine the two just until the dry ingredients are moistened; avoid overmixing the batter.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl: 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 flavoring ingredients (fruit puree, citrus zest, or extracts) into the wet ingredients For banana bread, the banana should be mashed and added with the wet ingredients.
- When each bowl of ingredients is mixed thoroughly, that's when you can combine them. The secret to moist, tender quick bread is in the mixing: Use a gentle touch. Pour the bowl of wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients 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.
Related: How to Make the Best Zucchini Bread
Tips for Adding Dried Fruit to Quick Bread Batter
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 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.
How to Make a Streusel Topping for Quick Bread
Try this recipe: Pumpkin Muffins with Streusel Topping
Add a crumbly mixture of butter, sugar, and spices to your quick breads to give them extra crunch and visual appeal. (And for some people, the streusel is their favorite part.) If your recipe doesn't include a topping, try Jan's Crumb Topping or Streusel. It makes a lot, so you can either scale it down (adjust the number of servings) or make the full batch and freeze the extra to have on hand whenever you want it. Simply sprinkle the streusel over the quick bread batter before baking.
Glazing Quick Breads
Try this recipe: Poppy Seed Bread with Glaze
Glazes are another way to add flavor and visual appeal to quick breads. Whisk together a simple mixture of confectioners' sugar and a little milk or fruit juice until it's the consistency you like. Try orange and lemon juices for their fragrant, tart zing; add curls of zest for extra color and flavor. Wait until the bread is cool to the touch to add glazes, otherwise they will melt and run right off.
VIDEO: Chef John's Banana Bread
Chef John reveals the simple secret to moist, rich, delicious banana bread — no food processor or electric mixer required.
How to Fix Common Quick Bread 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. Another solution is to line your pans with parchment paper on the bottom and sides, leaving enough paper overhanging so you can easily lift out the bread after it cools. 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 to distract the eye. Or just own it. Quick bread cracks. That's life.
My blueberry muffins look green! The natural pigment in blueberries can react with alkaline baking soda, turning the blueberries green. To prevent this, 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 bake.