Biscuits. Cornbread. Muffins. Banana bread. Soda bread. Loaves. Pancakes, popovers, waffles, crepes, cookies, scones, doughnuts. I should mention biscuits again. You folks on Atkins are probably either cringing, drooling or crying by now. Quickbreads come in all shapes and sizes. Fairly easy to throw together, they typically take just a few minutes to mix and an hour or so to bake. Instead of using yeast, these type of breads are leavened with baking soda or powder. Since these chemical leaveners act fairly quickly, there isn’t a long fermentation period as there is with yeast. Nor does this type of baking require kneading. The opposite is actually true, as it’s easy to over mix the dough and turn your loaf into something with the same specific gravity as a doorstop. Some do require specialized techniques (crepes) or equipment (waffles, doughnuts, popovers), but most are simple mix-and-bake recipes that the average (or even fairly stupid) 6-year old could get right the first time.
The late Lewis Grizzard wrote in his newspaper column that after being married three times, and he always knew when the honeymoon was over. As long as she loved him, she’d make scratch biscuits, but when she switched to thwack biscuits (you thwack the can on the edge of the counter to open them) it was all over but the shouting.
In this age of instant everything, it’s hard to imagine that at one time, bread needed to be baked every day. Even the infamous no-knead recipe takes a a day of waiting. A generation or so ago, things were different: Somebody had to get up and get the biscuits going. A friend in college was the “biscuit wench” for a local diner, and had to show up to work most mornings at 4:30 AM. She’d bake a few hundred biscuits from scratch, and make it to her 10 AM classes smelling like heaven, usually with a little flour in her hair. The joke was that she’d make someone very happy one day, but she was pretty adamant she’d never bake anything before sunrise again.
1 3/4 cups warm milk and 2 tablespoons white vinegar (soured milk)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a nonstick pan, or really heavily butter a plain one. Heat the milk over low heat until just barely warm, and whisk in the vinegar. Yes, it gets chunky. You should use buttermilk in place of this mixture, but this may save you a trip to the store, since not many of us keep buttermilk on hand. Stir the brown sugar into the soured milk, and mix together the other dry ingredients. Dump it all together and then mix well. You don’t really want to knead this dough, just incorporate everything and shape into the loaf pan. Bake for about an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean, the top is a golden brown, or when the sides begin to pull away from the pan. Allow to cool for a few minutes before trying to remove the bread from the pan, but don’t wait too long or the bread will become soggy.
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1.5 sticks cold butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups milk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Sift all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Cut the butter into the flour, and slowly add the milk. Knead gently on a floured surface just enough to bring the dough together. If you knead or handle the dough too much, your biscuits will be hard and tough. Roll out the dough into a pad about an inch thick. Use a biscuit/cookie cutter to cut out biscuits, or shape into similar-size flat balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the tops are starting to brown.