Quick breads thrive on minimal attention from cooks - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Quick breads thrive on minimal attention from cooks

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Posted: Wednesday, October 15, 2003 10:33 am | Updated: 2:26 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

If you want to sell your house, the conventional wisdom goes, make sure you have bread baking in the oven when potential buyers come through.

Maybe it’s fact, maybe not. But one thing is certain: Anyone who gets a whiff of freshly baked bread is likely to go weak at the knees. Tempt them with bread, and you might just increase your chances of selling your house, not to mention your ancient eighttrack and rusty Smith-Corona.

But do you really have time to bake bread, even for such a big payoff? If the thought of spending hours mixing, kneading and waiting for the dough to rise makes your spirits fall, the answer is quick savory breads — biscuits, muffins, nut breads, pancakes and waffles.

These are breads that don’t use yeast as the leavening to make them rise. They don’t require kneading or rising time. As a matter of fact, they are best when not handled much at all.

"The less you touch the dough or batter for a quick bread, the better," says Betsy Oppenneer, an award-winning cookbook author and baker whose newest book, "Celebration Breads," was published in September.

The reason is gluten, a tough, elastic protein. The more you work the dough, the more the gluten develops, which makes for a tough, heavy quick bread.

"You don’t want any of the gluten in the flour to develop," Oppenneer says. "As a matter of fact, I think the word ‘kneading,’ when used, for example, for making biscuits, is a bad term. Really, you just want to pat the dough out."

All flours contain various amounts of gluten, so Oppenneer uses pastry or cake flour, which is on the low side of the gluten scale.

"It’s made with a softer wheat with low gluten. You can make a good quick bread with all-purpose flour, but you’ll make a better one with pastry (cake) flour."

Generally, quick breads are quick because you combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another. The liquid ingredients are quickly poured and mixed into the dry ingredients.

When Oppenneer thinks of quick breads, her thoughts turn to savory recipes like Fresh Rosemary and Cheese Muffins. She adds herbs or cheese to create bolder flavors.

"I don’t like those really sweet muffins or loaf breads," she said. "They taste like cake. The original quick breads were savory — made with herbs and hardly any sugar."

In fact, she’s cut back on sugar in all her quick bread recipes, including biscuits.

"When I see or taste a biscuit with a lot of sugar, I have a fit," she says. "They are not supposed to be sweet. You don’t need sugar to make a light, fluffy, delicious biscuit."

She likes to roll biscuits in a little melted butter, then in chopped herbs.

"I place them in a pan to grow together as they bake, making a nice topping when they are done," she says.

Baker and culinary journalist Lisa Yockelson also likes to use grated cheese.

"Interesting thing — the size of the shred of the cheese matters," says Yockelson, whose most recent cookbook, "Baking by Flavor," won this year’s International Association of Culinary Professionals award. "If the cheese is too finely grated, it will not be distributed evenly in the batter. The exception would be Parmesan or Romano cheeses. They can be finely shredded for quick breads."

One of her favorite recipes is Cheese Drop Biscuits, from another of her cookbooks, "Baking for Gift-Giving."

"They’re made with cheddar cheese and sour cream," she says. "They’re rich and super-easy to make since they are dropped on on the cookie sheet instead of having to be cut out."

So what’s not to like about quick breads? They’re easy to make. They taste delicious.

And they might even get youacontract on your house.

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