Monday, February 27, 2012

Winter Vegetable Quick Breads

Dark Chocolate Beet Loaf
Potato Quick Bread with French Onion and Parsnips

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

As a fan of old-style baking- as in cheap and simple -I have made quite a few quick breads in my day. So many that with this Daring Bakers challenge I decided to write my own recipes based on what I know. I made mine a little fancy, but you don't have to.

There are many types of quick bread out there- pretty much any bread that does not use yeast is a quick bread (muffins, popovers, scones, etc). I knew I wanted to focus on loaves that I would typically make during the winter. I searched for tips on making potato bread by scanning the Joy of Cooking's quick bread section and discovered their potato bread wasn't too far from the banana bread recipe that I use religiously. I was inspired to make the chocolate beet bread after seeing a recipe for Moist Chocolate Beet Cake on David Lebowitz' blog. Without his recipe, I wouldn't have known how to get the super dark chocolate into the beet bread.

Read on for the gist of how to throw together a quick bread without a recipe- if I can do it, you can!

The Hows and Whys for Writing Your Own Quick Bread Recipe

Sweet or savory
- your choice! Adding 1/2 to 2/3 cup of sugar for 3 cups flour (for 2 loaves) will make a savory loaf that isn't too sweet. To make a sweet loaf from unsweetened ingredients (such as my dark chocolate bread), 2 cups sugar to 3 cups flour is a good amount. Use less sugar with sweeter additives.

- fruits, vegetables, juice or milk...Grate it or mash it and in most cases with very dense root vegetables, roast them, covered, in a little liquid (water, broth, wine) until tender first. Use your imagination and use 1 to 3 cups for 2 loaves. If you're using an additive that is very dry (such as dried fruit) add some milk to moisten your batter. I try to keep my additives at the consistency of mashed bananas. Then I know the moisture balance is good.

Extra flavor
- use herbs, dried soup mixes, garlic, citrus zest, a shot or two of molasses or a shot of rum. The possibilities are endless. Just use a little common sense by keeping your liquids and sweeteners balanced. Dried herbs go a long way-use them lightly until you get a feel for it.

Leaveners- To cause your bread to rise, use 1 or so teaspoons of baking powder for each cup of flour. Use 1 or so teaspoons of baking soda for each cup of flour when using an acidic ingredient such as buttermilk, orange juice or tomato paste. I use these two ingredients pretty much interchangeably, more baking soda for acidic foods and in this case less baking powder, between the two using 1 teaspoon per cup of flour. For example, I used 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 3 cups flour for my chocolate bread because chocolate is moderately acidic.

Fat- 1 cup butter or shortening for 2 loaves is good. I love quick breads made with oil but I use a little less (2/3 to 3/4 cup) or it feels greasy.

Eggs- I use 4 eggs per 3 cups of flour. I've used 3 when that's all I had. And I've used 5 or 6 for a bread that's more "eggy". Despite what you may have heard, quick bread ingredients can give or take a little in amount. It's kind of hard to mess up.

Unless you over-mix or over-bake! Please don't! A dry brick is what you'll get. Mix or fold, gently with a spatula, just until it's combined. Bake until a skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs on it. Not a wet smear of batter but not totally clean.

In sum- 3 cups flour, 1/2 to 2 cups sugar, 3 teaspoons leavener, pinch of salt, 1 cup of fat, 4 beaten eggs, 1-3 cups fruit or veggies. Mix in order (you may even do this in one bowl if you like). Pour into 2 well-greased loaf pans. Bake at 350F for 45 to 60 minutes until a skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs. And that's your recipe!

Recipes:Potato Quick Bread with French Onion and Parsnips
This bread is delicious when sliced and toasted! Makes 2 standard loaves.

3 cups flour
1 packet french onion soup mix
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup oil (I used peanut)
4 eggs
2 cups leftover mashed potatoes or potato parsnip puree*
1/2 cup milk

Grease 2 loaf pans very well and preheat your oven to 350F. Whisk together the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl, beat eggs then mix in oil. Mix in the puree and 1/2 cup milk.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, folding together with a spatula just until combined well.

Pour into prepared pans and bake for 50-60 minutes until a skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs on it. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan then cool completely on a wire rack before storing. Very good eaten the next day and so moist it doesn't really need butter or anything. Yum!

*To make the puree:
Peel and halve 4 medium potatoes and 2 medium parsnips. Roast at 350F for 2 hours in a covered pan with 1/2 cup chicken stock, a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of red pepper flakes and 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary. Place roasted veggies in a food processor along with a drizzle of olive oil and a half tablespoon of rosemary leaves. Run the processor while slowly adding just enough stock or water to blend it until smooth (or mostly smooth).

Dark Chocolate Beet Loaf
makes 2 standard loaves

3 cups flour
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5 (or up to 2) cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
8 ounces chopped very dark chocolate
1 cup butter at room temp cut into chunks

1/2 cup hot espresso or very strong coffee
1 cup mashed or pureed beets (from can or boiled whole, then peeled)
4 eggs, beaten
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Whisk together first 5 ingredients.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler (or bowl placed in top of small pot with 1 inch of boiling water). When the chocolate is almost all melted turn off the heat, press the butter chunks into the chocolate and let it sit for a minute. Whisk in the butter along with the coffee, then remove from the boiler and set it aside for several minutes to cool. On medium-high, mix in eggs, then mix in beets.

Fold wet ingredients into the dry then pour into prepared loaf pans. Bake at 350F for 50-60 minutes. This bread dries out easily- Remove it from the oven when your skewer has a bit of smeared batter and some moist crumbs on it. It will finish baking in the pan out of the oven. Dust the top of the loaf with powdered sugar while still warm. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then finish cooling on a wire rack before storing.



  1. Those look beautiful! I love the color and texture and the thick, thick slices you cut. Nice job on the challenge!

  2. Just wanted to say that I love and appreciate this post very much. I'm looking to write my own recipe for a beet quick bread and stumbled my way here. Thanks for taking the time to give general purpose instructions... Best regards, tw

  3. Hannah, they both look good. I'll have to do a beetroot theme sometime! Thanks for adding to the collection. cheers


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