However the first quick breads came about, I am grateful. When else do we get to essentially dump ingredients in a bowl, stir, bake, and then be rewarded for our minimal efforts with a warm golden loaf of bread for the table? Here is the basic recipe I've settled on over the years, with plenty of variations for just about any occasion you can think of.
For an average weeknight meal, or even a non-average dinner party, I really like this basic buttermilk loaf all on its own. It's rich, a touch tangy, and not overly sweet, making it a good match for everything from a roast to a pot of chili. During the summer, I serve the leftovers topped with berries and whipped cream as a simple short-cake-like dessert.
This is a versatile recipe, to be sure. Add some diced fruit and warm spices, and this loaf becomes part of a brunch buffet. Go the other way with shredded cheese, savory herbs, and onions, and you could take this to any barbecue, football party, or potluck dinner with confidence that every last crumb will be eaten before the night is over.
Whether you stick with the basic recipe or change it up, the method is the same. Combine all the dry ingredients, whisk together the liquid ones, and then gently stir them together into a shaggy batter. Pour into a loaf pan, bake for about forty-five minutes, and it's ready to go on the table.
Basic Buttermilk Quick Bread
Makes one loaf
2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (4 oz) white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 oz) buttermilk
1 large egg
1/4 cup (2 oz) unsalted butter, olive oil, or vegetable oil
Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease or spray with nonstick cooking spray a standard 9x5 loaf pan.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Melt the butter, if using. Whisk it in a separate bowl with the buttermilk and the egg.
Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients. Gently stir and fold the ingredients until all the flour has been incorporated and a shaggy, wet batter is formed. Be careful not to over-mix.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and pat it into the corners. Bake for 45-50 minutes. When finished, the loaf should be domed and golden, and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing and slicing.
Wrap baked loaves tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. Baked loaves can also be wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil and frozen for up to three months.
• Sugar can be reduced to a tablespoon for more savory breads.
• Up to half the flour can be substituted with an alternative flour.
• Replace the buttermilk with a mix of yogurt and milk or milk and a squeeze of lemon.
• Use up to 1 1/2 cups fruits, nuts, olives, cheese, or other ingredients, added to the dry ingredients.
• Use 1-3 teaspoons of herbs or spices, added to the dry ingredients.
1. Cranberry-Walnut Loaf (pictured above) - 1 c. dried cranberries, 1/2 cup toasted and chopped walnuts, 1 tsp vanilla, zest from one orange
2. Apple-Cinnamon Loaf - 1 c. diced apples, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 cup toasted and chopped nuts
3. Cherry-Almond Loaf - 1 c. dried cherries, 1/2 cup toasted and chopped almonds, 1 tsp almond extract
4. Blueberry Loaf - 1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries, 1 tsp vanilla, zest from one lemon
5. Ginger-Orange Loaf - zest from two oranges, 1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, pinch of cloves, pinch of nutmeg
6. Herbed Sun-dried Tomato and Cheese Loaf (pictured below) - reduce sugar to 1 T, 1/2 c. grated cheese, 1 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp thyme, 2 T minced sun-dried tomatoes
7. Onion-Dill Loaf - reduce sugar to 2 T, one minced onion cooked until soft, 1 T minced fresh dill
8. Pesto Loaf - reduce sugar to 1 tablespoon, 1/4 c. pesto, 1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese
9. Spicy Jalapeno Loaf - reduce sugar to 2 tablespoons, 1/4 cup minced jalapeno peppers, 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese, 2 tsp chili powder
10. Irish Soda Bread Look-Alike Loaf - reduce sugar to 1/4 cup, 1 T caraway seeds, 3/4 cup raisins
(Image credits: Emma Christensen)