Whenever I stick a pan of quick bread in the oven, I never know whether I am going to enjoy it myself or wrap it up as a gift. Often I do both, for a home-baked quick bread is a flashy, evocative treat.
Delightful aromas waft across my kitchen as I stir the batter with a medley of spices: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, mace, fresh and ground ginger, grated lemon and orange peel, and crushed seeds such as cardamom and coriander.
Coriander seeds’ lemonlike flavor perks up the old traditional Southern lemon tea bread. Cardamom, too, adds a heady aroma to quick breads.
These easy-to-do breads owe their name to the fact that they are leavened with baking powder or baking soda and not yeast, so there’s no need to sit and wait for the bread to rise before baking. No kneading is required, either. Stir up the batter and stick it in the oven and bake until golden and delicious - real quick.
The breads should be baked on the lowest shelf of the oven, where the heat is the highest, and in small loaves for better and faster baking. You can always count on the top of the loaf to crack - well, most times - because the crust browns before the center of the bread has finished rising. As the center expands, the loaf cracks, creating its beauty mark.
When I bake these breads, I turn them around in the oven halfway through the baking - or if I’m baking two pans at the same time, I switch the position of the pans. That’s another down-home trick that works.
Jamaican banana bread
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus another tablespoon for coating the nuts
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup coconut, grape-seed or light peanut oil, or a mixture of all three
3/4 cup light brown sugar, preferably crystallized sugar
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
3 or 4 tablespoons dark rum or lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pan or a 6-cup ring mold or cake pan, and dust lightly with flour. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and set aside.
Combine the eggs, oil and sugar in a large bowl, and beat vigorously with a wire whisk or an electric hand mixer for a few minutes until well blended. Add the mashed bananas, rum or lemon juice, and allspice, and beat until just smooth.
Stir in the flour and leavening, mixing only until blended. Coat the walnuts all over with the 1 tablespoon flour and stir into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and shake the pan gently to settle the batter.
Set the filled pan in the middle of the oven on the lower shelf and bake the bread for about 55 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, but still moist. When done, set the pan of bread on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Then turn the bread out of the pan and serve warm, if desired.
Molasses tea bread
3/4 cup vegetable oil, such as grape-seed, peanut, corn or coconut, or a mixture of the oils
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup dark or robust molasses
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 or 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger or 2 to 3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 to 2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 1/4 cups unbleached flour, plus another tablespoon for coating the nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 1/2 tablespoons crystallized sugar such as Sugar in the Raw, or more if desired
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan, dust lightly with flour, shake out excess, and set aside.
Combine the oil, eggs, molasses, sugar, ginger, allspice and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl, and beat vigorously with a whisk or hand-held electric mixer until well blended.
Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add the flour and buttermilk alternately to the molasses mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon after each addition. Sprinkle the walnuts or pecans all over with the 1 tablespoon flour and then stir into the batter, mixing well.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and shake gently to settle the batter. Set the pan in the center of the hot oven on the lower rack. Bake the bread for 10 minutes and then scatter the top of the loaf evenly with the crystallized sugar.
Bake the molasses bread for 45 to 50 minutes longer, or until it is brown and puffy and a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean but a little moist. Don’t overbake the bread and dry it out; it should be moist.
Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Run a metal spatula around the edge of the bread and turn out the bread onto a rack or board lined with a tea cloth or sheet of wax paper. Then turn the bread upright and serve warm, if desired.
Lemon coriander bread
4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour, plus another tablespoon for coating the nuts
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup mild-flavored nut or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons crushed coriander seeds, lightly toasted if desired
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or pistachios
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter and then dust lightly with flour 2 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans, or 2 8-by-2-inch cake pans, or 2 6-cup ring molds.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and set aside. Stir the lemon juice into the buttermilk and set side.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, oil, crushed coriander seeds, lemon peel and eggs. Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat the mixture on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
Quickly, using a large spoon, add the flour and milk alternately to the bowl. Then beat the batter briskly with the spoon for about 30 seconds, scraping the bowl as needed.
Toss the chopped nuts with the 1 tablespoon flour and stir into the batter, mixing well but gently.
Pour the batter into the buttered pans, dividing evenly between the two. Shake the pans to level the batter. Place the pans on the lower shelf of the hot oven. Don’t allow the pans to touch.
Bake the breads for 40 minutes and then insert a metal tester or toothpick into the center of the breads to test for doneness. If the tester comes out clean but moist and the breads are golden brown, they are done. If not, bake 5 or so minutes longer, and test again, watching carefully.
When done, remove the breads from the oven and cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 to 12 minutes. Turn the breads out of the pans and onto the wire rack and serve warm, if desired.