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 ½ teaspoon cream of tartar and ¼ 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 if it is still active by mixing 2 teaspoons of it in a cup of hot water. If the foaming reaction is weak, toss it.
Here are some more tips for perfect loaves:
Preheat the oven.
Prepare the nuts and fruit ahead of time.
Don't overmix the batter. Too much mixing can result in loaves not properly rising, turning out tough and possibly with tunnels through them.
Tent the loaves with aluminum foil once they begin to brown to prevent overbrowning.
Loaves that are too compact are a result of too much flour or too much leavening.
Use a knife a toothpick is too short to check for doneness by sticking the blade in the center of the loaf. If the knife blade comes out clean, or with a few crumbs attached, it's done.
Shiny pans reflect heat, but dark pans absorb heat so baked goods brown more quickly. If using dark pans, lower the heat by 25 degrees.
Store loaves for 24 hours before slicing. Or freeze and slice with a serrated-edge knife.
Iozza's corn and bacon loaf
Makes 1 loaf
12 ounces hardwood-smoked bacon, coarsely chopped
1 ear corn, husked
2½ cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1¼ cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 cups grated sharp white cheddar, divided use
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh chives
Salted butter, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the bacon in a large heavy sauté 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 ½ cup of bacon drippings to cool.
Slice the corn kernels off the cob. You should have 1 cup.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne pepper in a large bowl to blend. Whisk the milk, the eggs and reserved bacon drippings in another large bowl. To this stir in the bacon, 1½ 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 to 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.
This recipe is from "Relaxed Cooking With Curtis Stone" (Clarkson Potter, $32.50).
Earl Grey tea loaf