You are here

Quick Breads: Easy, Creative, and Delicious

Pastry chef Sherry Yard gives quick breads a flavorful makeover

Written and produced by Stephen Exel
  • Prev
  • next
  • 1 of 8
  • Peter Krumhardt

    Recipes in this Story

    Coffee-Cardamom Quick Bread with Praline Crumble 
    Grapefruit-Oatmeal Quick Bread
    Orange-Olive Quick Bread  
    Ratatouille Quick Bread  
    How to make Compound Butters

    Sherry Yard sees stars. With 19 years under her toque as executive pastry chef at Spago, Wolfgang Puck’s famed Los Angeles restaurant, she has created untold grand finales to dinner. She has baked the thousands of edible Oscar statuettes that grace the annual gathering of Hollywood glitterati. She has sneaked a burger to Hilary Swank and shared chocolate cake in the kitchen with Julia Roberts.

    But all that banter and batter aside—Yard loves the basics of baking: cakes, cookies, pies, and easy quick breads.

    “What isn’t fantastic about a quick bread?” Yard enthuses. “It’s the unsung hero of bread baking.” Her joy over the simplicity of quick breads couldn’t make me happier. Although I’m an enthusiastic cook, I’m a somewhat reluctant baker. Quick breads save my reputation: It’s difficult to mess them up, and they don’t involve yeast, punching, turning, rising, resting, or precision. Sweet versions are an ideal companion to coffee; savory varieties knock the socks off standard dinner breads.

    “Quick breads are familiar, creative, different, and approachable,” says Yard. “They inspire my imagination.”

    To prove her point, she offers up four quick bread recipes that surpass zucchini or banana bread. Each example is enhanced by a simple-to-make compound butter. “When you let your imagination take over, you can do anything,” she says.

    For flavorings, think beyond the ubiquitous vanilla extract, she advises. “Reach a little further into your cupboard, and go for a spice you wouldn’t normally use.”

    For example, spiced Persian coffee inspired her Coffee-Cardamom Bread with Praline Crumble. The cardamom pairs with ginger and cinnamon for a heady kick to this coffee- and hazelnut-flavored bread. (The other surprising secret ingredient? Nutella.)

    Earthy oatmeal is mixed with the fragrant, sweet acidity of pink grapefruit in a Grapefruit-Oatmeal Bread. This delightful breakfast bread has other treats folded into the batter: pecans, brown sugar, nutmeg, and homemade candied grapefruit peel. The candied peel has another use—the slightly bitter, slightly sweet peels can be served alongside cocktails later in the day.

    Trips to a farmer’s market—Yard often ponders what to do with all those vegetables—inspired her Ratatouille Bread. Red sweet pepper, zucchini, summer squash, onion, and eggplant are woven through the buttermilk, yogurt, and goat cheese-based batter. Thyme, basil, and marjoram add herbal flavor to the bread.   

    Two aromatic fruits of the Mediterranean perfume Yard’s savory Orange-Olive Bread, which owes its moist texture to the addition of olive oil in the batter. “Olive oil and olives have separate, distinct fragrances,” Yard says, “each quite complex. Orange wakes them all up.” Hints of garlic and black pepper complement the fruity flavor of this dinner bread.

    Now, after almost two decades at Spago, Yard is stepping out on her own. Later this year she’ll reopen Helms Bakery in Culver City, a historic bakery that delivered Los Angeles its daily bread from 1931 to 1969.

    The four quick breads listed here made their debuts at Spago as take-home gifts last New Year’s Eve, but they won’t be disappearing from Yard’s repertoire when she starts her new venture.

    “Helms was an L.A. institution,” she says. “We’re very respectful of what was there, but we’re looking toward the future. This will be Americana baking with a Sherry Yard twist.”

    Photography: Peter Krumhardt

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Coffee-Cardamom Quick Bread with Praline Crumble

    Streusel:
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 3/4 teaspoon ground Vietnamese cinnamon or ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 cup cold butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
    • 2 tablespoons chocolate-hazelnut spread (Nutella)
    • 1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel

    Quick Bread:
    • 1-1/4 cups sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground Vietnamese cinnamon or ground cinnamon
    • 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
    • 2 tablespoons coffee extract
    • 1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee powder
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 2/3 cup sour cream
    • 2/3 cup ricotta cheese
    • 1 cup whipping cream
    • Chocolate-Hazelnut Butter*

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and 1/2-inch up sides of two
    8x4x2-inch loaf pans; set aside. For streusel, in medium bowl combine 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

    Using a pastry blender, cut in butter pieces and chocolate-hazelnut spread until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in orange peel; set aside.

    In small bowl stir together the 1-1/4 cups sugar, cardamom, ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon; set aside. In another medium bowl stir together the 2-3/4 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; set aside.

    In large bowl combine eggs and sugar mixture. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed 4 minutes or until mixture is light, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Add oil, coffee extract, coffee powder, and vanilla. Beat until combined. Add sour cream and ricotta cheese. Beat on medium speed just until combined.

    Alternately add flour mixture and whipping cream to sugar mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Divide batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle streusel mixture over batter.

    Bake about 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack. Serve with Chocolate-Hazelnut Butter, if desired. Makes 24 servings (2 loaves).

    *Chocolate-Hazelnut Butter:
    In small bowl combine 1/2 cup softened butter and 1/2 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread. Serve butter chilled or softened to room temperature.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Grapefruit-Oatmeal Quick Bread

    • 4 eggs
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/3 cup grapefruit marmalade
    • 1/4 cup chopped Candied Grapefruit Peel*
    • 2 tablespoons finely shredded grapefruit peel (from 1 large grapefruit)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1 cup regular rolled oats
    • 1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans (optional)

    Icing:
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 4 teaspoons pink grapefruit juice concentrate
    • 1/4 teaspoon finely shredded grapefruit peel
    • 1 to 2 teaspoons water or milk
    • 1 tablespoon toasted chopped pecans (optional)
    • Grapefruit Butter**

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and 1/2-inch up sides of two 8x4x2-inch loaf pans. Line bottoms of pans with waxed paper or parchment paper; set aside.

    In medium bowl lightly beat eggs. Add buttermilk, milk, vegetable oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, grapefruit marmalade, Candied Grapefruit Peel, shredded grapefruit peel, and vanilla. Whisk to combine.

    In large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg; make well in center. Add egg mixture to center of flour well. Stir just until moistened. Stir in oats and 1/2 cup pecans. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans.

    Bake 25 minutes; turn to rotate pans. Continue to bake 15 to 20 minutes more or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 15 minutes; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

    For Icing, in small bowl combine powdered sugar, juice concentrate, grapefruit peel, and enough water to make drizzling consistency. Pour glaze over cooled bread, then sprinkle with 1 tablespoon toasted pecans. Serve with Grapefruit Butter**. Makes 28 servings (2 loaves).

    *Candied Grapefruit Peel:
    Using sharp knife, score peel of one grapefruit lengthwise in four pieces. Remove peel, keeping it intact. Reserve fruit for another use. Slice each piece of peel diagonally in 1/3-inch wide slices. Place peel in medium saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to boil; boil 1 minute. Drain; repeat 3 times to cook bitterness out of peel. Drain again. Combine 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar in saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add peel. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 1-1/2 hours or until peel appears translucent. Drain again. In medium bowl toss peel with 1 cup sugar. Remove peel; let stand on wire rack to dry. Toss again in sugar if peel appears wet. Makes about 1 cup.

    **Grapefruit Butter:
    In small bowl combine 1/2 cup softened butter and 1/3 cup grapefruit marmalade.  Serve butter chilled or softened to room temperature.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Orange-Olive Quick Bread

    • 1-1/4 cups chopped onion
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
    • 3-3/4 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 2-1/4 cups milk
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 2-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
    • 2 teaspoons coarsely shredded orange peel
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon Maldon salt or sea salt
    • 3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
    • 3/4 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
    • Garlic Butter*

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and 1/2-inch up sides of two 8x4x2-inch loaf pans; set aside.

    In large skillet cook onion in the 2 tablespoons hot oil 5 minutes or until tender; set aside. Cool completely. In large bowl stir together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Make well in center; set aside.

    In medium bowl whisk together milk, eggs, Parmesan cheese, mascarpone cheese, 1/4 cup olive oil, oregano, orange peel, black pepper, garlic powder, and Maldon salt. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Fold in olives and reserved onions. Spoon batter into prepared pans.

    Bake 60 to 65 minutes or until toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove breads from pans. Cool completely on wire rack. Serve with Garlic Butter, if desired. Makes 24 servings (2 loaves).

    *Garlic Butter:
    In small bowl combine 1/2 cup softened butter and 2 cloves garlic, minced. Serve butter chilled or softened to room temperature.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Ratatouille Quick Bread

    • 1/2 cup chopped onion
    • 1/2 cup chopped red sweet pepper
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
    • 5 ounces zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1/2-inch thick
    • 3 ounces yellow summer squash, sliced lengthwise 1/2-inch thick
    • 5 ounces eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/2-inch thick
    • 3 eggs
    • 1-1/4 cups buttermilk
    • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
    • 4 ounces goat cheese (chèvre), crumbled (3/4 cup)
    • 1/2 cup oil-packed dried tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
    • 2 cloves roasted garlic*, mashed
    • 3/4 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram
    • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • Honey-Mustard Butter**

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and 1/2-inch up sides of four
    7-1/2x3-1/2x2-inch loaf pans or twelve 3-1/2-inch jumbo muffin cups. Line bottoms of pans with parchment (or line muffin cups with paper bake cups) Grease parchment; set pans aside. Line large baking sheet with paper towels; set aside.

    In large skillet cook onion and red sweet pepper in 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat 5 to 6 minutes or until onion is tender. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Cook zucchini and yellow squash slices 6 to 7 minutes or just until golden, turning once. Transfer to baking sheet. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet; cook eggplant slices 7 to 8 minutes or just until golden, turning once. Transfer to baking sheet. Once all vegetables are cooled, chop into 1/2-inch pieces (you should have 3/4 cup zucchini, 1/2 cup summer squash, and 2/3 cup eggplant). Reserve.

    In large bowl whisk eggs. Add buttermilk, yogurt, goat cheese, dried tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, thyme, basil, roasted garlic, marjoram, and pepper. Stir in reserved vegetables.

    In very large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Make well in center of flour mixture. Add wet ingredients all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened.

    Pour batter into prepared loaf pans. Bake in preheated oven 30 to 35 minutes for loaves or 25 minutes for muffins until toothpick inserted into crack*** in center comes out clean. (Tops may sink slightly.) Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely on rack. Serve with Honey-Mustard Butter**. Makes 4 loaves or 12 muffins.

    *Roasted garlic:
    Peel away dry outer layers of skin from 1 head garlic, leaving skins and cloves intact. Cut off pointed top portion (about 1/4-inch), leaving bulb intact but exposing individual cloves. Place garlic head, cut side up, in custard cup. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover with foil; bake in 425°F oven 25 to 35 minutes or until cloves feel soft when pressed. Set aside just until cool enough to handle. Squeeze out garlic paste from individual cloves.

    **Honey-Mustard Butter:
    In small bowl combine 1/2 cup softened butter and 2 tablespoons honey mustard. Serve butter chilled or softened to room temperature.

    ***Tip:
    When a quick bread has thicker crust, test for doneness through a crack on the top or make a small hole. Otherwise, crust can clean off the toothpick as it is pulled from loaf.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Making compound butters

    Compound butters are an easy way to add unexpected dash to breads, pancakes, toast—anything you would spread with butter. Use almost anything to flavor compound butter: jams, jellies, spices, herbs, condiments, even cooked, pureed vegetables.

    To make compound butter, soften a stick of butter to room temperature. In a bowl, mash together softened butter and choice of flavor agent until well combined.

    See next slide.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Place compound butter on a piece of waxed paper large enough to wrap a standard stick of butter. Shape butter into a log. Roll butter log in waxed paper; fold up ends. Place butter in freezer. Bring to room temperature to serve.

Comments

Loading comments...