Quick breads are the answer for the cook who wants to bake an old-fashioned treat, but doesn't have the time to wait for dough to rise or the patience for fancy decorations.
It isn't surprising that America, which gave the world McDonald's, was the country where quick breads began. Cooks in the 18th century discovered that pearlash (made from wood ash) could act as a leavening agent. Today, baking soda or baking powder makes quick breads rise as they bake.
Chef Shirley Coleman, pastry instructor at the Baltimore International College, demonstrated a simple method for mixing muffin batter, relying simply on a spoon or spatula and the cook's strong arm. The main thing to keep in mind, she says, is not to overmix; muffin batter is supposed to be lumpy when it's poured in the pan.
Basic Muffin Recipe
Makes 12 muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter or salad oil
2 eggs (slightly beaten)
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla (or another extract)
added flavoring: 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
Place all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Combine all liquids in a separate bowl. Mix the liquids into the dry ingredients. Add the blueberries. Mix until just combined; do not overmix. Batter will be lumpy.
Fill greased or paper-lined cupcake pans. Bake 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before removing them from the pan. Serve warm.
Per serving: 213 calories; 4 grams protein; 9 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 30 grams carbohydrate; 1 gram fiber; 56 milligrams cholesterol; 272 milligrams sodium
Shirley Coleman, Baltimore International College
1. Measure and sift together dry ingredients: flour, sugar, salt, baking powder. Measure and mix together wet ingredients: eggs; milk or water or juice; melted butter, shortening or oil; and vanilla.
2. Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
3. Mix in flavorings, such as nuts, bacon, cheese, blueberries.
4. Spoon batter into muffin tin and bake. An ice-cream scoop works well to form even portions.
Sweet or savory treatments to enjoy. Here are some flavoring options:
Lemon extract and blueberries
Cheddar cheese, bacon chips and chives
Minced apples and walnuts
Cocoa powder and peanut-butter chips
Corn and jalapeno peppers
Chocolate chips and almond extract
Wheat bran and raisins
Lemon zest and poppyseed
Pears and ginger