Monday, April 29, 2013

Using a Quickbreads Formula to bake muffins, pancakes, and more, without a recipe!

Using a Quickbreads Formula to bake muffins, pancakes, and more, without a recipe!

 My family has been enjoying muffins over the past year, for snacks, breakfast, on the go lunches-  thanks largely to a "Quickbreads formula" that my sister shared with me! Using a formula allows me to bake without needing a recipe, fit whatever allergy needs we have, use whatever I have on hand, and have a nice variety of muffins! It has been freeing, exciting, and empowering!

You can use the structure to meet your needs and use endless creativity!

The formula is taken from "The Chameleon Cook: Cooking Well With What You Have"

by Rhonda Hair, and adapted by she and I for baking with allergies.

Learn the core formula for quickbreads and what role the ingredients play.

Do this with practice; have fun experimenting! So much of baking is preference, and you can tweak ingredients. How sweet do you want, how much oil, what flavors do you want to come through? Texture more hearty or lighter? Don't be afraid to change ingredients and amounts. The quickbread formula allows this flexibility. Do know that baking is chemistry as well as an art. The more you understand the roles the ingredients play and how they interact, the more  creativity you can have! Expect that not every item will measure up to your top nicely, risen, tender favorite! Regardless, have joy in the learning of using and enjoying what you have available(and what you can have)!   Enjoy each item for what you like about it.  : ) Kind of dense? Well, maybe it still has good flavor. Not much flavor? Maybe you can add something that boosts it.  It's so nice to learn to make your own variations. You  can control so many preferences(including nutrition) that you do not get in a mix. Experiment and take notes on what you like. Find out what happened on things that didn't work so well.  Involve your kids so they can learn too!  Some things may merely be edible; others very satisfactory! Just  keep baking! You will become more flexible and able to produce satisfying, wholesome food for your family!

Basic Quickbread Formula for Muffins:

2 cups flour

1 T. baking powder or 1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 -1 tsp. salt

1/4-3/4 c. sugar

about half as much liquid as flour- 3/4 c. -1 c.

1 egg or substitute   (put this with liquid and count it towards total liquid amount)

1/4 c. - 1/2 c. fat

Stir together dry ingredients. Stir together wet ingredients. Combine these two mixtures and stir just until combined, not until smooth. Divide into greased muffin tins and bake at 375 about 20-24 minutes, or until just golden.

Quickbread Formula for pancakes:

2 cups flour

1 T. baking powder or 1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 -1 tsp. salt

1 tsp- 1 Tbsp. sugar

as much liquid as flour

one egg per cup flour*

up to 4 T. oil /melted butter

*Note: I find, when substituting eggs with applesauce, flaxseed, coconut yogurt- works better to just substitute amount of one egg per 2 c. flour. May add 1 tsp extra baking powder for lightening,  if using baking soda already. I don't like more than 1 T. total baking powder with 2 c. flour.

 Simple syrup: 1 c. water, 2 c. brown or white sugar. Boil until sugar dissolved. Store in fridge. Flavor variations:  1-2 capfuls of maple flavor, 1 tsp of coconut, almond, or lemon flavor.

Fruit juice syrups: 2 cups juice, divided; 1/4 cup sugar, 2 T. cornstarch+ enough juice to make paste.  In medium bowl, stir cornstarch and around  3 T. juice - enough to make paste. Heat remaining juice in  pan on stove. When hot, pour some juice into cornstarch paste, stirring. Then pour mixture into pan. Stir, bubbling, until thickened and translucent.

Thickened fruit purees: try applesauce, nectarine, pear sauce, strawberry, prune puree. Blend  fruit, adding liquid if needed,  and thicken with half/half instant fruit jel(modified cornstarch) and sugar. Can make large batch and store in freezer. Some fruits need acid added to prevent from browning. If so, stir in OJ concentrate or lemon juice. Extra special to add sliced  strawberries, blueberries, and coconut on top of fruit puree, especially on waffles! 

Basic Quickbread Formula: Ingredients
Flour can be all-purpose, whole-wheat, or other grains. (NOTE: here is my sister's version, she generally uses wheat...but see my blog post "Baking Quickbreads without wheat." Stir as little as possible or the food will become tough, from gluten forming. Remember COLD and QUICK (mixing) for tender quickbreads. If you use whole wheat flour, add a few more tablespoons of water; the bran in whole wheat makes it absorb about 1/4 -1/3 more. Whole wheat is also heavier; you can increase leavening by about 1/3(add 1 tsp. if using 1 Tbsp. in recipe) to compensate. Or use 2 T. less flour for each cup of whole wheat flour. See post "gluten-free quickbreads" or look below Ingredients list.

Cornmeal can be used in place of half the flour. Rolled oats can too, but it takes 2 c. rolled oats to equal 1 c. flour. You can also use breadcrumbs, the crumbs from the bottom of the cereal box, leftover oatmeal or other cooked breakfast cereal. Figure the last two are roughly half water and half ‘flour’; adding 1 c. leftover oatmeal would be about ½ c. ‘flour’ and ½ c. liquid.

Fat can be oil, butter, shortening, coconut oil, etc. Sour cream, cream cheese, or mayonnaise can be used, but figure they’re about 1/3 actual fat and around 2/3 c. liquid. Fat adds flavor and makes breads tender, partly by inhibiting gluten. You can swap out some or all- of the fat for applesauce or other fruit puree. Swapping all of it out will make the food a little rubbery. If you want flakiness,“cut in” the butter or shortening/coconut oil. A shortcut way is to melt it instead, cool slightly, and then stir in your VERY COLD liquid. It will clump, which is what you get with cutting in. Another shortcut is to grate frozen butter into the dry ingredients.

Liquid can be water, milk, buttermilk, fruit juice, vegetable juice, broth, leftover gravy. You can also use mashed or pureed fruit or vegetables. Figure they’re about half water, so 2 c. mashed bananas is about 1 c. liquid.

Sugar can be granulated sugar, brown sugar, chopped dates or other dried fruit, honey (use ¾ as much, the other ¼ is water), molasses or corn syrup (reduce water). A small amount (1 tsp.) adds a little flavor and helps with browning. Use only a little for a savory food, ¼- ½ c. for lightly sweet, and ½- 1 c. for quite sweet. Higher amounts of sugar actually act a little like liquid when cooking, making them heavier and more dense. Sugar also adds tenderness. Brown sugar and honey are hygroscopic.

Eggs are added to help bind (give structure, bind), to make more tender (yolks are high in fat), and add color and richness. They also do a little leavening; one egg leavens about as much as ½ tsp. baking powder. I usually just call that a bonus and not reduce leavening. If you have to leave out eggs when you should have added them, add ½ tsp. baking powder for each egg omitted.
NOTE: See my post
Leavening here is baking soda or baking powder. Baking soda is alkaline; when it mixes with an acidic ingredient it forms carbon dioxide bubbles, leavening the food. It also helps foods brown as they cook. Use it when you’re using lots of brown sugar, or honey, molasses, buttermilk, sour milk, vinegar (think 1-2 Tbsp.), juice, mashed fruit, chocolate. Baking powder is a combination of an alkaline (baking soda!), an acid, and a filler to keep them from reacting in the can. 1 tsp. of baking soda has the leavening power of 1 Tbsp. baking powder. Most baking powder now is ‘double-acting’; it first starts bubbling (leavening) when mixed with any liquid, then again during the heat of cooking. Use it if you have very little acidity in your dough or batter. You can use some of each, though.  Note by Melissa: For example, if converting a basic muffin recipe that uses  1 T. baking powder to use orange juice for the liquid, you might  add 3/4  tsp. baking soda, and drop down  1 T. baking powder to 1/2 Tbsp.  If using 1/2 tsp. baking soda, might use 2 tsp. baking powder with it.

 Spices and flavorings: includes vanilla or other flavorings, zest, powdered herbs and spices, fresh chopped herbs. Use three times as much fresh herb as you would of dried. Try the ‘sniff test’ before adding something: smell what you’re mixing, then smell the flavor you’re thinking of adding. If they smell good together, they’ll taste good together. Start with less; you can always add more.

Mix-in Ingredients: savory ones include chopped ham, bacon, sausage, onions or green onions, chopped or shredded cheese. Sweet ones include chopped fresh, canned (drained) or dried fruit, chopped nuts (toasted for best flavor), chocolate chips, coconut, shredded carrots or zucchini. Use between ½ and 1 ½ cups total. Use a favorite food (i.e. banana splits) for combination ideas.

Toppings for muffins, to add before baking:
Sprinkle each muffin with ½ t. sugar for a crunchy, sparkly top.

Sprinkle with streusel: 2 T. softened butter + 1/4 c brown sugar + 1/2 c  flour, oats, or coconut; mix well.

Sprinkle with coconut topping: 1 T. softened butter + 1/4 c sugar + 1/2 c. coconut; mix well.

Sprinkle with nuts or nuts and brown sugar mixed together.

 Toppings to add after baking:

Dip the tops in melted butter after baking, then dip into cinnamon and sugar.

Brush with lemonade concentrate, maple syrup, or other syrup.

 Gluten-free* Quickbreads

Substitute various  flour combinations to meet your needs and preferences. If you can't have wheat, this is a benefit for quickbreads: non-wheat flours help avoid possibility  of tough texture from overstirring and forming gluten.  I do use a little xanthan gum  to give some structure, otherwise quickbreads  can be very crumbly and the texture a  bit powdery.  The rule of thumb is 1/2 tsp per cup flour, but I have found 1/4 tsp per cup works better for me- I think because oat flour doesn't need the xanthan gum as much.

I like hearty,  wholesome baked goods, so for muffins, pancakes, quickbreads, drop cookies,

I generally use one of two mixtures that are mostly whole grain:

     50% brown(or white) rice flour,  50% oat flour

          Ie: 1 c. oat flour*/1 c. brown rice flour

     33% rice flour(brown or white); 33% oat flour, and 33% bean/starch mixture(half bean/half starch*)

           Ie: 3/4 c. oat flour, 3/4 c. rice flour, 1/4 c. lentil flour, and 1/4 c. cornstarch.

 Each of these flour blends I grind and mix in large quantities, and store in gallon bags in freezer. Whole grain flour loses flavor and nutrition more quickly at room temperature. 

 Here are the blends in easy to use formula to multiply and make large quantities:

1 part (brown or white) rice flour, 1 part oat flour*

3 parts rice flour, 3 parts oat flour, 1 1/2 parts bean flour, 1 1/2 parts starch

 A good all-purpose blend without oats:

     2 parts (brown or white) rice flour, 1 part tapioca, 1 part cornstarch or potato starch

The texture of batter may be a bit different than you are used to. If you are unsure if your batter is good consistency, you may wish to test bake one item first. Adjust if needed, take notes , and keep baking!

*Bean flour:  I usually use lentil bean- it's easy to grind in a blender! Ground white beans also work well, if you have Vitamix/similar  or grain mill. If purchasing bean flour, garbanzo is a favorite.

*Starch can be cornstarch, tapioca starch, or potato starch, or combinations of these. For the past three years I have simply used cornstarch- it's easy and economical for me to buy in bulk, and I am happy with my baked goods. Tapioca starch and potato starch do offer nice texture additions, and actually, I've heard that combining these starches tends to work well, if you want to experiment. : )

Homegrinding: Oats and lentils easily grind in a regular blender. You can grind most any other grain with a Vitamix or grain mill.  Purchasing one of  these may well more than pay for itself.

*Note: I am aware that oats can be purchased with gluten-free certified seal if needed; however I understand that some who cannot have gluten do not tolerate oats. has lots of ideas for more flour blends.

Gluten-free Quickbreads

Rhonda Hair, taken from The Chameleon Cook: Cooking Well With What You Have ; adapted by Melissa Lords

Adapting recipes for a wheat-free diet
Wheat has several characteristics. Recipes use wheat for structure, binding, fiber, gluten (an elastic protein), as well as for flavor. When you can’t have wheat, it usually takes a combination of ingredients to do wheat’s job; see suggestions below. Options include nut flours (finely ground nuts); coconut flour; rice flour; potato flour; potato starch; tapioca flour; cornstarch; garbanzo, lentil, or other bean flour; and other ground grains: millet, amaranth, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, corn, and lots more. You can grind your own at home using a grain mill, or running ½-1 cup in your blender or food processor for a couple minutes. Oats*, quick or old fashioned, grind especially easily. Lentils do too. Some flours have strong flavors, some are nearly flavorless. Experiment to see what you like. If you need to have the binding, chewiness, and elasticity gluten gives, you can use xanthan gum or guar gum- ½ tsp. per cup of other flour for quick breads, 1 tsp. per cup of flour for yeast breads. In some things, like tortillas, simply using very hot water will help your substitute flour act ‘gummy’. In regular recipes that depend on avoiding gluten formation, as in quick breads and non-rolled pie crusts, it’s actually a benefit to use these alternate flours.
Fiber content of these flours varies tremendously; low-fiber flours tend to have very little flavor (which lets added flavors shine through) and produce a lighter finished product. High fiber flours have more nutrition and more flavor. It works well to combine flours from each category.
Low fiber
White rice flour
Potato starch
Potato flour
Tapioca flour

High fiber
Oat flour*
Any bean flour
Lentil flour (it’s in the bean family)
Amaranth flour
Quinoa flour
Millet flour
Teff flour
Nut flour
Coconut flour
These alternate flours tend to absorb more than regular flour does, and they are more dense. Because of this, the recipes will turn out better if you increase the liquid, the fat, and the leavening by 10-25%. Baking time may also go up 5-10 minutes. Take notes on what you try, and how it turns out. You’ll learn lots and become more confident in baking. has articles that give rules of thumb and understanding of how to use these flours.
Remember you must carefully read your ingredient labels to be sure they are allergen-free.

 *Note: I am aware that oats can be purchased with gluten-free certified seal if needed; however I understand that some who cannot have gluten do not tolerate oats. has lots of ideas for more flour blends.

Egg-free muffins/pancakes using Quickbread Formula

egg substitutions per egg: 1/4 c. applesauce, other fruit puree, yogurt(coconut, soy included),   gelatin, 2 T. extra liquid.

Common specific substitutions per egg:

      3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce per egg + 1 tsp extra baking powder total(NOT per egg)

      1 tablespoon flaxseed meal  + 3 tablespoons hot water. (Let stand, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until thick. Use without straining.)

     1 packet unflavored gelatin, 2 T. warm water. Do not mix until ready to use.

Egg adds binding for quickbreads(helps hold it together/less crumbly). Applesauce, banana, pear, apricot or prune puree all help bind, among other fruits.  Flaxseed meal,chia seed or gelatin do good job as binders. If you don't mind some crumbliness, you may try just adding extra liquid. Try different substitutions and take notes. Each type of binder yields a little different texture.  Knowing this helps me choose what I want in which circumstance. Sometimes I will go for more tender crumb, knowing it won't be a muffin to take on the go!  Sometimes I select a binder that I know will give a sturdy muffin for a packed lunch.

Eggs contribute leavening - you may wish to add extra baking powder or soda, but not over 1 T. baking powder and 1 tsp baking soda per 2 cups flour.  I often add 1 tsp. extra baking powder if recipe has  baking soda.  

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