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Quick Bread Recipe: Create Your Own

Add your favorite fruit, nuts, and spices to make a custom quick bread.

by Abigail Johnson Dodge

from Fine Cooking
Issue 125

True to their name, quick breads are quick to make, though it should be noted that they’re more like cake than bread. These iconic American treats are delicious for breakfast, as a snack, or for a casual dessert. They’re a perfect handmade gift, and they freeze well, too. But what I love most about them is the infinite number of variations I can make by simply adding flavorings to my basic vanilla batter and finishing with different toppings (or not; it's also quite tasty on its own).

Yields one loaf; serves 10

Prep the pan and heat the oven

This recipe was developed using a standard Pyrex loaf pan. You can experiment with different shapes and sizes; just adjust the baking time accordingly and put a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom oven rack in case there’s a little overflow due to variations in volume.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 6-cup (8-1/2 x 4-1/2-inch or 9 x 5-inch) loaf pan with 1 Tbs. softened unsalted butter. Flour the greased pan with 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour, tapping out any excess.

Combine the dry ingredients

Add-ins make quick bread more interesting, but don’t overdo it; too many extras may cause the batter to overflow during baking and can make the finished bread crumbly.

In a large bowl, combine 9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 Tbs. baking powder, 3/4 tsp. table salt, and spices, if using (see options below). Whisk until well blended. Stir in dry add-ins, if using (see options below).

Choose up to five spices for a total of up to 2 tsp. (optional)

  • cinnamon
    Cinnamon: up to 1 tsp.
  • cardamom
    Cardamom: up to 1/2 tsp.
  • cloves
    Cloves: up to 1/4 tsp.
  • ground ginger
    Ginger: up to 1 tsp.
  • nutmeg
    Nutmeg, preferably freshly grated: up to 1/2 tsp.

Choose up to three dry add-ins for a total of up to 2-1/4 cups (optional)

  • poppy seeds
    Poppy seeds: 4 tsp.
  • chopped nuts
    Chopped, toasted nuts: up to 2/3 cup
  • apples
    Diced apples: up to 1/2 cup
  • bananas
    Diced bananas: up to 1/2 cup
  • mango
    Diced mangos: up to 1/2 cup
  • ginger
    Finely diced crystallized ginger: up to 1/2 cup
  • chocolate chips
    Chocolate chips: up to 1 cup
  • peanut butter chips
    Peanut butter chips: up to 1 cup
  • butterscotch chips
    Butterscotch chips: up to 1 cup
  • dried apricots
    Chopped dried apricots: up to 3/4 cup
  • dried cherries
    Dried cherries, chopped if large: up to 3/4 cup
  • raisins
    Raisins: up to 3/4 cup
  • coconut shavings
    Shredded sweetened dried coconut, toasted: up to 1-1/2 cups
  • lavender
    Dried lavender: up to 1 Tbs.
  • raspberries
    Berries, fresh or thawed frozen, halved if large: up to 1-1/4 cups
Combine the wet ingredients

If using a wet add-in, be sure to adjust the milk/buttermilk/coconut or your batter will have too much liquid.

In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup milk OR buttermilk OR unsweetened coconut milk, 2 large room-temperature eggs, and 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract. Add a wet add-in (see options below) and aromatic flavoring (see options below), if using. Whisk until blended.

Choose one wet add-in (optional; if using, reduce milk in batter to 1/2 cup)

  • zucchini
    Coarsely grated zucchini: 1-1/2 cups, squeezed dry
  • mashed banana
    Mashed overripe bananas: 1 cup
  • applesauce
    Fruit purée, such as applesauce: 1/2 cup
  • pumpkin puree
    Canned pumpkin: 1 cup
  • carrots
    Coarsely grated carrots: 1-1/2 cups, squeezed dry

Choose one aromatic flavoring (optional)

  • lemon zest
    Finely grated lemon zest: 1 Tbs.
  • lime zest
    Finely grated lime zest: 1 Tbs.
  • orange zest
    Finely grated orange zest: 1-1/2 Tbs.
  • ginger
    Finely grated fresh ginger: 2 Tbs.
  • almond extract
    Pure almond extract: 1/2 tsp.
  • lemon extract
    Pure lemon or orange extract: 1/2 tsp.
Make the batter

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients. Add 4 oz. (1/2 cup) melted and cooled unsalted butter. Using a silicone spatula, gently fold until blended.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Top and bake

Toppings added before baking sink into the batter a bit, which means they’ll stay put.

Sprinkle a topping (optional; see choices below) evenly over the batter (gently pat down nuts so they adhere to the batter).

Bake, rotating halfway through, until the top is golden and a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes.

Choose one topping (optional)

  • sanding sugar
    Sanding sugar: 2 Tbs.
  • turbinado
    Turbinado sugar: 2 Tbs.
  • chopped nuts
    Sliced or chopped nuts: 1/2 cup
Finish the bread

A final flourish of confectioners’ sugar or a sweet glaze dresses up a quick bread.

Let the bread cool in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes. Invert the bread and remove the pan, turn the bread right side up, and let cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar or drizzle with a glaze (optional: see recipe below). Store, covered, at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Glaze Recipe

4 oz. (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
4 tsp. liquid (water, milk, cream, fresh lemon, orange, or pineapple juice); more as needed

Sift 4 oz. (1 cup)  confectioners’ sugar through a medium-fine sieve. In a small bowl, combine the sugar with 4 tsp. liquid (water, milk, cream, fresh lemon, orange, or pineapple juice) until smooth, adding more liquid 1 tsp. at a time until the glaze is just pourable; a cream glaze may need quite a bit more liquid.


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