Thursday, May 05, 2005

A slice for you, two slices for me (sweet quick breads)

There's an old English proverb that goes "Never fall out with your bread and butter." That's especially true if the bread in question is of the sweet, and quick, variety. Quick breads are one of those foods that can be prepared and enjoyed by anyone. There's no need for yeast, no need for kneading, no need to wait around while the dough rises and proofs. You just mix the ingredients together, dump the resulting dough into a loaf pan, bake it, cool it and eat it.

The quick breads below are perfect for breakfast or brunch, or as an afternoon (or after-dinner) snack. Enjoy a slice (or two) plain, or smeared with some cream cheese, butter or anything else that tickles your fancy.

Lemon-Blueberry Loaf Cake
Anyone who knows me knows I love rich, decadent desserts. But I also love simple treats that highlight just a few, fresh flavors. This loaf cake is an example of the latter. It's completely uncomplicated, easy to whip up in a jiffy, and full of wonderful, summertime flavors. Serve slices topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of fresh blueberries - or make a fantastic trifle using cubes of the cake, lemon curd and whipped cream.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3-4 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries or frozen, thawed, drained (dust with flour to keep them from sinking during baking)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8x4-inch loaf pan.

Combine first three ingredients in small bowl. Using electric mixer, cream butter with one cup sugar in large bowl until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add lemon peel. Mix in dry ingredients alternatively with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Fold in blueberries.

Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes (check at about 50 minutes). Cool 30 minutes in pan on rack. Turn bread out of pan and cool completely on rack.

Makes one 8-inch loaf.

Strawberry Bread
I love strawberries, but I rarely use them in recipes. I'm not sure why--maybe it's because I've found so few recipes that make good use of them. This recipe, I think, does just that. The resulting bread looks beautiful (a pale pink) and tastes even better.

If you want to spoil yourself, spread a little softened cream cheese on a slice before you gobble it down :)

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups sliced strawberries, lightly mashed
1 ½ cups cooking oil (substitute applesauce for some of the oil, if desired)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8x4-inch loaf pans.

Beat eggs with an electric mixer on medium until thick and light. Add sugar and beat just until combined. Add oil (and applesauce, if using), and mix once again until combined.

Stir dry ingredients together. Add to the sugar-egg mixture and stir until just moistened. Fold in mashed berries.

Bake for about 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Loosen edges and remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.

Cranberry-Banana Bread
I found this recipe on another great blog called "Chocolate & Zucchini." The resulting bread tastes as good as it looks--the tart cranberries a perfect complement to the sweet banana.

Although the cranberries are a nice change of pace, feel free to substitute other berries (fresh or dried) if cranberries are hard to come by.

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 small bananas, sliced and mashed
1 cup cranberries, chopped
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 360 degrees. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

Using a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add in the eggs one by one, mixing well between each addition. Add in the banana and cranberries, the water and the vanilla extract. Mix again until blended, but not too much : just until everything's combined.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients into the batter, and mix until just combined--don't over-mix.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for approximately 55 minutes or until the top of the cake is nicely brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Let rest for ten minutes, then run a knife around to loosen the sides, and turn out on a rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
My mom has made this bread every summer for as long as I can remember. At first, I wouldn't eat it--the idea of zucchini as an ingredient in something sweet disgusted me. But after getting up the courage to finally try a bite, I was hooked. It's sweet (but not too sweet) and incredibly moist. If you don't eat the whole loaf in a few days (not likely, but I guess it's possible), wrap it well and freeze it for later.

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips (can also add a handful of walnuts, if that's your thing)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9x5-inch bread pans (can also use smaller pans or muffin tins as well).

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, oil and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in zucchini. Fold in chips and walnuts (if using).

Turn batter into pans. Bake for about 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then turn out to cool completely.

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