Read this guide to troubleshooting quick breads and get tips from checking ingredients to getting your bread out of the pan. You’ll be an expert in no time!
If you’re having difficulty with quick breads, here are few tips and tricks that can help you create the best muffin, loaf, or biscuit that you can!
Best Tips For Troubleshooting Quick Breads:
Check Your Ingredients
The first thing you need to do is check your ingredients and make sure you’re using the right ones and they haven’t expired. Unless specified, flour should be all-purpose flour. If the flour is self-rising flour (like in my drop biscuits and bacon and chives biscuits) make sure you’re using self-rising and not cake flour or a biscuit mix like Bisquick. They are not interchangeable.
More importantly, check to make sure your ingredients haven’t expired! Some ingredients, like sugar don’t really expire, though brown sugar can get hard. Other ingredients, like flour or butter can expire. But old expired flour or butter can smell stale, dusty or even rancid, so it’s easy to tell. Just give them a quick sniff and if they don’t have any off scents, you’re good to go.
But some other ingredients like baking powder and baking soda are difficult to tell if they are good or not. Since baking powder and baking soda are so important to quick breads, you need to make sure you are using ingredients that aren’t past their expiration date.
Test Your Leavening
Even if your baking powder and baking soda is within the expiration date on the package, they can sometimes no longer work. Variables like heat and humidity in your home, as well as how you store your leavening, means they could lose their effectiveness.
If you have any doubts about your baking powder, just pour 1/4 cup of boiling water into 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. If the liquid foams up, the baking powder is still good. But if it’s flat, you have expired baking powder and you should get some new stuff.
To test baking soda, you just add a couple of tablespoons vinegar to baking soda. If it foams up, the baking soda is still good. If there’s no reaction, your baking soda is expired and it’s time to go to the store!
Don’t Substitute Ingredients
It’s tempting to do a substitution if you don’t have an ingredient on hand or if you don’t like the ingredient flavor. But baking is a delicate science and substituting an ingredient can lead to unexpected results. If you aren’t an experienced baker and don’t have the underlying knowledge of what the ingredients roles are in the chemistry of baking, I highly recommend that you stick with the ingredients listed and tested for the recipe.
That said, some recipes with specialty ingredients do have ingredient substitutions in the blog. Those ingredient substitutions (like making your own self-rising flour or making a buttermilk substitution with milk and vinegar or lemon juice) have been tested with the recipe and will work. If you don’t have a specialty ingredient in your pantry, be sure to read the blog post to see about making a substitution.
Read The Instructions!
This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how often folks miss a step in the recipe. Read the entire recipe over first and imagine yourself doing what it says. Then you’ll be mentally prepared to go into the kitchen and make the quick bread!
Check Your Oven
Oven temperature can vary a lot, especially if you have an older oven. Purchasing an oven thermometer will tell you if your oven is running hot or cold and by how much. Making sure you have the right temperature for the oven will ensure the quick breads will bake up properly.
One of the things you’ll see over and over again in recipes for quick breads is to mix until JUST BARELY COMBINED. Nobody wants a tough or chewy muffin or banana bread. If you overmix your quick bread batter or dough, the resulting baked good might be tough. This is because the more you mix the dry ingredients together, the more you activate the gluten in the flour. Gluten is the stringy protein that makes bread chewy. You want this chew with most yeast bread, but you don’t want this chew with quick breads. So, mix only as much as necessary and no more.
If you are adding inclusions like blueberries or chocolate chips, this is also doubly important. Mix until you still see a few dry spots in the batter or dough. Then add the inclusions and gently fold them in with a large silicon spatula. The act of folding in the solids will continue to mix the batter or dough and incorporate those dry ingredients fully.
Check For Doneness
Because oven temperatures can vary and because batter temperatures can vary depending on if the ingredients are coming from a cold fridge, a cold winter kitchen, or a warm summer kitchen, bake times can also vary. Recipes often list visual clues like “bake until golden brown on top” or “bake until the edges start to brown” to indicate when the baked good is done. Check the center of the baked good with a toothpick or skewer. If the wood comes out clean or with a few crumbs on it, that means it’s done. But if the toothpick or skewer is wet, you need to bake it longer.
Make sure to check a few spots as well, especially if the quick bread has fruit like blueberries or inclusions like chocolate. Hitting a wet berry or melted chocolate chunk can give an indeterminate reading on a small thin toothpick or skewer.
If you happen to have a quick read thermometer, that’s even better. Quick breads like muffins, banana bread, cornbread biscuits, and scones are all done at about 200°F.
Releasing The Quick Bread From The Pan
Finally, you should always grease your pan with cooking oil or butter before baking. Or you can use parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
I prefer to bake my muffins without paper cups as I like the crust that forms when the batter is up against the metal muffin pan, but you can use paper cups for convenience if you’d like.
If you use parchment paper, just cut the parchment paper to the size of the pan, then lightly oil the pan to get the parchment paper to stick to it. Make sure to leave enough overhanging paper on the edges of the pan so you can grab it. Usually, an inch or two is enough.
Pour the batter into the pan with the parchment paper and bake as directed. Once the baked good is finished, let it cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes before grabbing the sides of the parchment paper and lifting it up and over to a wire cooling rack.
If you aren’t using parchment paper, let the baked good cool for 15 to 20 minutes to firm up properly, then invert and move to a wire cooling rack. The baked good should still be warm but cool enough to handle.
If you let the baked good cool completely in the pan it might be more difficult to remove from the pan. Just place the pan with the baked good in a 300°F oven for 10 minutes or until the outside is warm to the touch. Then try inverting and removing the baked good.
That should help you with troubleshooting your quick breads, but feel free to ask questions in the comments.