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Quick breads are breads that are prepared with leavening such as baking soda or powder, rather than yeast. As a result, the bread does not have a long proofing and rising time, like yeast breads. These bread can vary widely in texture and flavor, from light and fluffy to extremely dense, and they can be both sweet and savory. The recipes also tend to perform very dependably, making them a great starter for people who are just learning how to cook.
The leavening in quick bread expands as the bread as baked. As a result, it often has a less complex flavor than yeast bread, because the dough does not ferment at all. Dense breads like biscuits may be very lightly leavened, while others, such as pancakes, may be mixed with eggs as well to create a fluffy texture. Just as with yeast breads, the recipes vary immensely, and once cooks learn the basics, they can expand upon them for more creative and unique results.
Banana breads and similar loaf breads like pumpkin or zucchini bread are quick breads, as are muffins, biscuits, pancakes, waffles, and similar foods. Typically, a recipe will include flour, salt, fat (shortening, butter, or oil), and leavening, but it can also include sugar, ingredients like fruit and vegetables, and liquids. Low fat quick breads often use oils as fats, sometimes replacing part of the oil with applesauce or similar ingredients, and they tend to be light in texture as well as flavor. Higher fat examples may be very dense and rich, as is the case with many banana breads.
There are a number of different ways to prepare quick bread. One of the most common ways involves mixing the wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately, and combining them at the very end. The ingredients are stirred until they just come together, and then the resulting dough or batter is quickly baked.
A bread can also be made with the creaming method, where butter and sugar are beaten together before wet and dry ingredients are added. With biscuits, shortening is cut into the dry ingredients. In all cases, the ingredients should not be worked too much, as the dough can get hard and tasteless if it is handled too much.
Many cookbooks have a section set aside just for quick breads, as do recipe exchange sites. Since they are dependable, fast, and fun to make, they are great choices for baking exploration and experimentation. These recipes also come in handy during a cooking emergency, such as an unexpected potluck or social event.