Secrets for Successful Quick Breads

Measure ingredients accurately, using the measuring tools and techniques suggested.

Before preheating the oven, arrange the oven racks so that the bread will bake in the center of the oven.

Preheat the oven for 10-15 minutes before baking.

Be sure your baking powder and baking soda are fresh. (See Testing Baking Powder & Soda for Freshness.) Always check the expiration date on the packages before using.

Mix the liquid and dry ingredients only until moistened. A few lumps in the batter is fine. Overmixing causes the gluten in the flour to develop and the texture to be coarse and tough.

Grease aluminum baking pans and sheets with a dull rather than shiny or dark finish. Fill pans two-thirds full.

Most quick breads should be baked shortly after dry ingredients and liquid ingredients are combined because the leaveners will begin producing gas once they are moistened. If allowed to stand too long before baking, the bread may have a sunken center.

To allow for good air circulation while baking, leave at least 1 inch of space between pans and between pans and sides of oven. Switch pan positions and rotate pans halfway through baking.

Use a kitchen timer. Check for doneness 10-15 minutes before the end of the recommended baking time. The bread is done if a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. If it is not done, test again in a few more minutes. The bread may have split in the center, which is typical of a quick bread.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, unless recipe directs otherwise. Turn loaves out onto a wire rack to cool. Most quick bread should be cooled completely before slicing to prevent crumbling.

Quick breads such as banana, zucchini and cranberry slice and taste best when served a day after baking. Wrap the cooled bread in foil or plastic wrap; leave at room temperature overnight. Others like cornbread and coffee cakes are best served warm.

Using a sawing motion, cut loaves with a thin sharp knife. Use a serrated knife for quick breads that have fruits and/or nuts.

Most quick breads can be stored at room temperature. Quick breads with a cream cheese filling should be stored in the refrigerator.