At one time, I thought that sweet loaves, or quick breads, were old lady foods. Is it possible that I have become the target audience, or could it be that I just had it wrong?
I now love it when someone passes a tray of sliced banana bread, lemon bread, pumpkin bread or any of the other varieties of loaves that are sweeter than regular bread and leavened with baking powder instead of yeast.
I also love that it is so easy to make, especially when compared to cookies, which are more than my patience can accommodate most days. Just mix the batter, spoon it into a greased pan, do something else while it bakes for an hour or so, cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, turn out and voila!
Is it bread or is it cake? I think of it as a hybrid, firmer than cake, sweeter than bread, spread with butter (or nothing, if you prefer) rather than icing. Quick breads are equally suitable for serving with a mug of coffee for breakfast or a dainty cup of afternoon tea.
The texture of quick breads can be smooth and refined, like lemon loaf, or chunky and robust with the addition of chopped nuts, dried fruit or chocolate chips. Smooth or not, the texture should be fine, without tunnels.
There is no kneading in the preparation of sweet loaves, and so the gluten in the flour is not developed. This, along with the tenderizing effect of the sugar in the formulations, makes these loaves less chewy than yeast breads.
In most cases, stirring is kept to a minimum when the liquids and dry ingredients are combined for a quick bread batter. This permits the air bubbles created by the action of the baking powder to stay intact until the heat of the oven firms up the loaf. Some recipes recommend that the batter be left to stand in the loaf pan for 15 minutes before baking, to allow for some initial rising.
Although the batter is similar, quick breads are baked at a lower temperature than muffins to permit the interior to bake without burning the crust.
I found this recipe for coconut bread online, on the smittenkitchen blog, and compulsively made a few alterations, including making some changes in the units of measure. I have made it using the melted butter the recipe calls for. And, for even more coconut flavour, I've substituted melted coconut oil. Because I am not a huge fan of cinnamon, I used only 2 mL (½ tsp) instead of the original 5-10 mL (1-2 tsp).
Finally, I decided to double up the tropical flavours and topped a loaf with a glaze, made by heating 75 mL (⅓ cup) granulated sugar with 75 mL (⅓ cup) fresh lime juice. Good!
Adapted from smittenkitchen.com, which credits Bill Granger, via Wednesday Chef, via The New York Times.
300 mL (1¼ cups) milk
5 mL (1 tsp) vanilla extract
625 mL (2½ cups) all purpose flour
10 mL (2 tsp) baking powder
2 mL (½ tsp) ground cinnamon
250 mL (1 cup) granulated sugar
375 mL (1½ cups) sweetened flaked coconut
90 mL (6 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted or melted and browned, if
desired OR 90 mL (6 tbsp) coconut oil, melted
vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray for baking pan
Heat oven to 180 C (350 F). Butter and flour a 23 cm x 13 cm (9 x 5 inch) loaf pan, or coat it with nonstick spray.
In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Add sugar and coconut, and stir to mix. Make a well in the centre and pour in egg mixture, then stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Add butter and stir until just smooth — be careful not to overmix.
Spread batter in prepared loaf pan and bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean, 1-1¼ hours. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
The smittenkitchen site suggests serving in thick slices, toasted, with butter and confectioners' sugar or salted honey brown butter spread. I like it toasted and simply spread with butter.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.