Holiday Baking Guide for Creating Your Own Quick Bread Recipes
If you’re like me, you probably have several notebooks, shoeboxes, or computer files stuffed full of recipes for holiday quick breads. These recipe files continue to grow each year because you just can’t find the time or interest to try more than just a few. If you’ve had several baking failures during the year, you might be even more reluctant to experiment with something new – especially for the holidays.
Holiday baking is fun. It’s traditionally the time of year where you can show off your culinary talents. You certainly don’t want to mar your reputation with a brand new recipe that doesn’t turn out the way you planned. At the same time, you might not want to serve a simple banana bread or pumpkin bread recipe either. Memorable holiday parties and spectacular family gatherings call for a platter of unique quick breads, cookies, and cakes.
Luckily, when it comes to baking with wheat flour and traditional ingredients, creating your own quick bread recipes is not as hard as you think, but it can be a bit more tricky if you're baking with gluten free flours.
Start With a Simple Banana Bread Recipe
A tasty, moist banana bread recipe can easily be converted into a wide variety of holiday quick breads, but for best results, you need to start with a recipe you can depend on. The recipe doesn’t have to be specifically designed for holiday baking. It can just be a simple, everyday, moist banana or applesauce bread.
You do need to keep in mind the type of fruit or vegetable puree you’re working with. A basic pumpkin bread recipe will call for more sugar than applesauce or banana breads because pumpkin is far less sweet. That can affect the final outcome of the bread, since the ratio of flour, sugar, and liquids are extremely important.
If you have a favorite banana bread recipe, you can just use your own. If you’ve never made banana bread before or don’t have a favorite recipe, you can use the following tried-and-true banana bread recipe as a guide. This recipe is the best banana bread I’ve ever tasted. It took me several years to develop, and it always gets rave reviews.
Basic Recipe for Banana Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas (about 2 large)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees for a metal loaf pan and 325 degrees for glass. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan and set aside. (An 8 x 4 will also work.)
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
- In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, milk and vanilla.
- Add dry ingredients alternately with mashed bananas, ending with flour mixture.
- Pile batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour.
- Allow bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a baking rack. Wrap tightly and store overnight on the counter before slicing.
Quick breads needs a minimum of 24 hours for the flavor and texture to set before you cut them. This bread is lower in fat and sugar than traditional banana bread recipes, but you won’t be able to tell. It’s just that good.
How to Make Your Own Quick Bread Recipes
If you’ve never modified a recipe before, you’ll want to stick closely to the ratio of flour, sugar and liquids until you see how your new variation is going to work out. Also, pay attention to your altitude. High altitudes (anything above 4,000 feet) affect the ratio of fat, sugar, and flour you can use. The best ratio I’ve found is a maximum of 1/2 cup fat for each cup of sugar the recipe calls for. Then a maximum of 1 cup of sugar for each 2 cups of flour. You can use less than these ratios, like I did in the above recipe, but you can’t use more without compromising the outcome.
For quick breads, too much sugar will cause the bread to come out crusty and sticky, and too much fat will keep the bread from cooking properly in the middle. This becomes particularly important when you’re substituting a sweet liquid such as maraschino cherry juice for the milk.
As long as you keep the amount of mashed bananas the same, you can use any type of fruit or vegetable to replace the mashed bananas. I’ve used pureed pears, peaches, applesauce, cranberry sauce, drained crushed pineapple, or pumpkin. The pumpkin does need a bit more sugar, but since the recipe only contains half of the maximum amount, you can easily double it provided you don’t use a sweet liquid to replace the milk. If you don’t live at high altitude, you have more leeway in the amount of sugar the recipe can withstand, but that will take a bit of experimentation to find your own personal maximum.
The same goes for the milk and oil. You can use melted butter, mayonnaise, or applesauce to replace all or part of the oil, and juice (including the liquid that comes in a can or jar of fruit), oil, sour cream, coconut milk, almond milk, or some other type of liquid ingredient to replace the regular milk. What you use depends upon the type of bread you’re creating.
You can also include a wide variety of extras without interfering with the way this recipe works. Although chopped nuts is traditional, I’ve added a little grated zucchini or carrots, raisins, chocolate chips, chopped maraschino cherries, soaked and chopped candied fruits, dates, shredded coconut, and grated citrus peel. Many holiday bakers also like to add chopped cranberries.
Holiday and Christmas Baking Ideas
Before I went gluten free, I was asked to bring a variety of quick breads to a holiday party. It was the first time I had tried modifying the above recipe. I knew this recipe worked well for me, so I simply altered it to keep with the holiday theme. All of the variations I tried turned out well. Since I needed enough quick bread to serve 100 people, I also doubled the recipe and made two loaves of each variety. If I had that experience to do over again, I would have purchased additional loaf pans to make the task easier and quicker.
Pineapple-Cherry Bread: Tasty combinations don’t have to be expensive. I substituted drained, crushed pineapple for the bananas (a large can is about 1 cup) and added chopped cherries.
Pumpkin-Date Bread: Since pumpkin isn’t as sweet as mashed bananas, I used brown sugar to replace the white sugar in the recipe. I also added chocolate chips, dates, and extra vanilla to increase the sweetness.
Cranberry-Nut Bread: This bread turned out much better than I anticipated. I was a bit concerned because of the sugar in the cranberry sauce, but it didn’t seem to affect the final outcome. I substituted cranberry sauce for the mashed bananas, and added chopped nuts and an extra teaspoon of vanilla per loaf of bread.
Strawberry-Blueberry Bread: I always fill my freezer with fresh strawberries when they are in season during the summer, but frozen strawberries would also work in quick bread. Just mash up enough to replace the bananas. I also added frozen blueberries to the batter and some chopped nuts.
Cherry-Applesauce Bread: This variety was favored above all of the others. I substituted applesauce for the mashed bananas, used the maraschino cherry juice inside the jar to replace the milk, and chopped up the cherries. I also added chopped nuts and chocolate chips. I used 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon per loaf of bread for an extra flavor kick.
Coming up with your own varieties of quick bread isn’t as difficult as it sounds. If your budget is tight, try making an orange-raisin bread by using canned applesauce instead of bananas, orange juice instead of milk, and throwing in some raisins.
Grated orange peel or orange extract will intensify the flavor. In addition, you could also glaze the top of the loaf by combining powdered sugar, orange juice, and some melted butter. Stir until smooth, then carefully spoon over the top of the loaf, allowing the glaze to drip down the sides.
Whether you're looking for a unique bread idea to serve along with a large pot of Mexican soup, hunting for an easy side dish to serve a crowd, want to make a good impression at your office Christmas party, or just want to find new and innovative holiday baking ideas, the number of quick-bread variations are as large as your imagination.