Blueberry Oat Bread

blueberry oat breadQuick breads are so nice to make on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Whether you are having brunch or just want the house to smell delicious, they are a comforting baked treat. The other great thing about them is that you mix one up and pour it into a pan with no fuss, no decorations or frosting to make, and they easily feed a crowd.

The recipe I found required a few changes. I used some all-purpose flour in place of whole wheat to lighten it up, and I swapped wheat bran for the wheat germ because that is what I had in the cupboard. Then, for high altitude adjustments, I added a bit more flour and used less baking powder. To veganize the recipe I used non-dairy yogurt and then switched out the eggs with aquafaba. That was easy. The hard part was waiting what seemed far too long for it to cool so I could eat it.

Blueberry Oat Bread adapted from Stonyfield
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup + 1 TBS all-purpose flour
1 cup oats (old fashioned or quick cooking)
3/4 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup wheat bran
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1.25 cups vanilla non-dairy yogurt
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 TBS aquafaba (chickpea brine)
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with shortening. In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: both flours, oats, sugar, wheat bran, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Using a stand mixer, beat together yogurt, applesauce, oil, aquafaba, and vanilla, and beat at medium speed. Slowly add dry ingredients until just combined then let batter rest for 10 minutes to allow bran to hydrate. Carefully fold in blueberries then pour batter into bread pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Until next time, happy baking!

Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chips

zucchini bread with chocolate chips and gingerI became a victim of an overabundance of zucchini. I also became a victim (or hero) of my baking science geekiness and picked up “Naturally Sweet” by America’s Test Kitchen. The cookbook analyzed familiar recipes and devised ways to make them with less sugar. One recipe in the book required baking with zucchini so I jumped at a chance to try it.

For high altitude I added more flour and less baking powder. I opted for applesauce as my vegan egg substitute because it would add in some moisture needed at high altitude. For a flavor boost I swapped the spices with ginger and the nuts with chocolate chips. The bread is loaded with zucchini but also low in sugar, so it’s good for you. Right?

Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chips adapted from Naturally Sweet
1 1/2 lbs zucchini, shredded
3/4 cups coconut sugar, plus 1 TBS for sprinkling
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350F. Grease a four-cavity mini loaf pan. Place zucchini in center of a dish towel. Gather ends together and twist tightly to drain as much liquid as possible. Discard liquid. In a medium bowl, whisk 3/4 cups sugar, oil, applesauce, and vanilla together. Stir in zucchini until combined.
In a large bowl, whisk both flours, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Using rubber spatula, stir in zucchini mixture until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Scrape batter evenly into cavities of prepared pan, smooth tops, and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of a loaf comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 28-32 minutes. Let loaves cool in pan for 30 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool 30 minutes more.

Until next time, happy baking!

Reducing Fat for Healthier Baking

pureed fruit

Image courtesy of Tim Sackton at flickr.com

In keeping with my resolution to bake healthier, I have examined ways to reduce fat in recipes. Most eaters know that fat adds flavor, but it’s important to know what else fat does in baking in order to see how to reduce it.

Fats “main functions are to shorten or tenderise the product (and) to trap air during creaming and so … give good volume and texture. … It is important to add the correct amount of fat as too much … will make the baked product greasy … while too little fat will leave you with a product that lacks flavour and stales quickly.”

For a tender treat, you can sub pureed fruits or vegetables as many “contain pectin, which acts similarly to fat to ‘shorten’ or tenderize baked goods. Unsweetened applesauce, mashed bananas, pureed prunes, or canned pumpkin puree work best. … You can replace half of the fat in a recipe with an equal volume of pureed fruit or vegetable.” I find this trick works well in cupcakes, muffins and breads.

It seems that pureed fruits and vegetables are best used to make a tender crumb but not as a substitute in recipes that require volume added to the batter. For these instances I still rely on my vegan butter substitute. It’s great when a recipe calls for the fat to be creamed to trap air. However, a baked good can still be made with a reduced amount of fat by replacing half of the fat with pureed produce. For a successful reduced-fat recipe, try my Chocolate Chip Banana Bread.

The Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

baking soda

Image courtesy of Rakka at flickr.com

Most baking recipes call for a leavener to give an item airiness and a tender crumb. There are two types: baking soda and baking powder. Why are there two? If I am out of one, can it be replaced with the other? Read further to solve these riddles.

Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate—an alkaline powder (aka, a base). When dissolved in liquid and combined with an acid, it rapidly reacts, breaking down into sodium, water, and carbon dioxide (which) expands upon baking … For baking soda to work, a recipe needs to include a significant acidic ingredient.” So, if you are doing ingredient substitutions in a recipe that lists baking soda as the sole leavener, be sure to keep an acidic item in the ingredient list.

If you are not including an acidic item, then baking powder can work as the leavener. Baking powder is “composed of baking soda, a powdered acid, and a starch (in order to absorb moisture and prevent the acid or base from reacting prematurely) … In its dry state, it’s totally inert. But once you add a liquid, the powdered acid and base dissolve and react with each other, creating bubbles of carbon dioxide without the need for an external acid source.”

There are other actions that baking soda performs and need to be considered. It is also used to “neutralize or dampen acidic ingredients. For this reason it is sometimes used in recipes with a high proportion of ingredients such as lemon juice, buttermilk or other sour flavours. When replacing sugar with a large amount of an acidic sweetener, such as honey, molasses or barley malt syrup, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda should be added the recipe to account for the increased acidity, even if baking powder is the principle leavener.” Thus, if you are using only baking powder in a recipe with highly acidic ingredients, then the flavor profile may be off due to the extra acid contained in baking powder. Those recipes need a little help from baking soda.

Another interesting baking soda fact is that it increases browning, a reaction that works best in an alkaline environment. Browning not only adds an appealing color to baked goods, but it also enhances the flavor. This is why baking soda is added to some cookie recipes that don’t require the rising action of a leavener.

Because baking soda is so important for many reasons, you may want to keep it on hand instead of baking powder. But, baking powder has its place in baking, too. To simplify things, you can use baking soda to make your own baking powder. “For every teaspoon of baking powder, use 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar, and 1/4 teaspoon of cornstarch.”

Now that we have demystified baking leaveners, you can make substitutions with confidence. It can also help you troubleshoot a quick bread that wasn’t quite perfect. Or maybe that was my recipe that needs some tinkering.

Date Nut Bread a la The Ranch House

date nut breadI have wanted to bake the Date-Nut Bread from the Ranch House Restaurant in Ojai, CA ever since I first tasted it. At the time I didn’t even like dates, but this quick bread was pretty decadent. Sweet, moist, and great slathered in butter. The cookbook from that restaurant has been collecting dust on my shelf for many years, so it was finally time to conquer it.

The original recipe is neither vegan nor high-altitude and has a few quirky directions. It took me several tries to come up with a bread that not only tasted (and smelled) fantastic but also had the right texture. I did a few basic veganisms – oil for butter and tofu for egg. I added in some whole wheat flour to make it more healthy, while adapting for altitude by using regular baking powder instead of double-acting.

There is one step I didn’t change. It says to line the bread pan with brown paper. Just do it. I was using a non-stick pan so I thought I only needed a light oiling of the pan – it was a bad idea. The bread cooked perfectly except around the outside where it remained gooey and refused to release from the pan. I got smart on the third attempt and used lightly greased parchment paper. Some directions were written to be followed exactly.

Date Nut Bread adapted from Vegetarian Gourmet Cookery by Alan Hooker
5 ounces chopped pitted dates
3/4 cup boiling water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup blended silken tofu
1 1/4 cups vegan sugar
2 1/2 TBS vegetable oil
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare a mini loaf pan by cutting parchment paper to fit three of the four sections. Lightly brush the pieces of paper with shortening and insert the paper into each of the three sections. The fourth section will not be used.
Put dates in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Combine the tofu and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the dates with their water, oil, milk and vanilla and beat again. Blend in the flour mixture in two batches. Add in the walnuts and mix well.
Divide the batter between the three prepared sections of the loaf pan. Bake for 33-35 minutes, or until the tops rise up and crack a little. Remove loaves from pan and place on a rack to cool.

Until next time, happy baking!

Brunch for a Month

brunch

Image courtesy of ccharmon on flickr.com

I collect cookbooks and recipes. It’s a bit of an obsession. Lately, as I pour through my recipe collection, I’ve been drawn to morning treats. My latest post was already a muffin recipe, so I thought I would devote the rest of the month of August to baking for brunch. If you’re being less fancy, feel free to enjoy these baked goods at breakfast – with or without the mimosas.

The brunch recipes will include items I’ve thought about baking for awhile. One is Granola Bars because I am not only too cheap to buy them but I don’t always like the ingredients found in them. Next is the Date Nut Bread from The Ranch House Restaurant in Ojai Valley, CA – one bite of this delectable bread and I was hooked. And, to appease my chocolate cravings, I will try my hand at Baked Chocolate Donuts.

My morning meal can be quite routine, so I look forward to switching it up. I hope you will enjoy exploring the brunch menu as much as I will.

Picking the Right Baking Pan

More pans

Image courtesy of Abbey Hendrickson on flickr.com

When I first moved to high altitude I noticed that baked goods seemed to sink at the center – not just vegan, but all types. I also realized that the larger the baked item (i.e. a cake versus a cupcake) the larger the crater. That made me think that if you removed the center then you could, potentially, remove the crater. The conclusion was that I would have to start baking in different pans to make better looking and more evenly baked goodies.

I started working with bundt pans for a centerless cake. Using a chart for Baking Pan substitutions I took a cake recipe for an 8 x 8” pan and baked it in my bundt pan. I started with a shorter baking time and checked every 5 minutes until it was done. Success! I had a perfectly baked cake with a great look.

Next was applying the same logic to quick breads. If I used mini loaf pans instead of a regular sized loaf pan then I should get a good result. I divided up the batter and greatly reduced the baking time to account for smaller loaves. Checking every so often I found the perfect length of time to bake the breads, and I ended up with tops that didn’t resemble lunar landscapes. For a chart to help calculate changing loaf sizes and corresponding bake times, see Crafty Baking again.

Now I apply this concept to all my high altitude baking except drop cookies; they don’t rise much so they don’t fall and cause craters. After a bit of shopping, I have specially divided pans for bar cookies and smaller pans to bake cakes in. The only problem I have now is that my pans tend to cater to bite-sized eating and my husband misses layer cakes. I guess that’s a project for the future.

Now you know my secret to making beautiful baked goods at high altitude.