Types of Quick Breads {What are Quick Breads}: A Complete Guide

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Did you know there are different types of quick breads.

When I want a quick and simple, no-fuss baking project I often turn to quick breads. I’m sure when you hear the words “quick breads” your first thought is a loaf of bread. Perhaps flavored with zucchini, or apples, or maybe pumpkin.

But the term quick bread is a generic term that refers to baked goods that are made with a chemical leavening agent such as baking powder and/or baking soda.

Loaf of zucchini bread in pan

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Types of quick breads:

Quick breads are more than just your trusty loaf of banana bread. All of the items mentioned below are technically quick breads. Pretty much any recipe that is leavened with baking soda or baking powder could be considered a quick bread.

  • Muffins
  • Cakes
  • Brownies
  • Cookies
  • Pancakes
  • Waffles
  • Biscuits
  • Scones
  • Donuts
  • Cornbread
  • Loaves

Why are quick breads called quick breads?

They are called “quick” because they are “quick” to prepare and can be baked immediately after mixing rather than waiting hours for yeast to help them to rise.

Pile of Raspberry Lemon Ricotta Pancakes topped with mixed berries
Raspberry Lemon Ricotta PancakesSavor and Savvy

What makes quick breads rise?

Baking Soda: Baking soda is a base ingredient that can be used as a leavening agent in recipes that contain an acidic ingredient. Do you remember creating a volcano in science class by mixing baking soda and vinegar? That same reaction happens within quick breads.

When baking soda combines with an acidic ingredient it begins to bubble and release carbon dioxide. This release of gas causes baked goods to rise. This reaction begins immediately so it is best to put your baked goods in the oven as quickly as possible.

Baking soda is four times stronger than baking powder. Which means it will take 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to leaven one cup of flour or one teaspoon of baking powder to leaven one cup of flour.

Common acidic ingredients that will combine with baking soda include:

  • Buttermilk
  • Yogurt
  • Chocolate
  • Natural Cocoa Powder (Not dutch processed)
  • Fruit Juice
  • Applesauce
  • Brown Sugar
  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • Vinegar
  • Cream of Tarter

Baking Powder: Baking powder is a combination of base and acidic ingredients. It contains baking soda (base), cream of tartar (acid), and cornstarch to prevent clumping.

Most baking powders are double-acting, meaning there is one reaction when they get wet (mixing dry ingredients into wet ingredients) and a second reaction when they are heated.

Because baking powder already contains an acidic ingredient it is often used in recipes that do not call for additional acidic ingredients.

No baking powder? Did you know you can make your own baking powder?

For more information on the differences between baking powder and baking soda check out this post on Sally’s Baking Addiction. Or watch this video from my favorite food scientist Alton Brown.

Why do some recipes use both baking soda and baking powder?

Thicker batters often require additional leavening. They may already contain an acidic ingredient put need the extra boost from baking powder to rise properly.

Another reason both baking soda and baking powder may be used in a recipe is to maintain an acidic twang in the final product.

For example, if all of the acid in buttermilk pancakes or a loaf of lemon bread is neutralized while reacting with baking soda you will lose their natural tanginess. By adding baking powder you can use less baking soda and achieve the same rise while preserving some of the acidic ingredients.

loaf of apple cinnamon quick bread on a cooling rack
Apple Cinnamon Quick Bread With Cider GlazeKelly Neil

Three types of quick breads

Quick breads can be classified into three different types of batter.

Pour Batters: This type of batter has a dry to liquid ratio of 1:1, which allows it to be poured from the mixing bowl. It produces a moist and dense baked good. Examples include my recipes for crispy waffles, and pumpkin pancakes.

Drop Batter: This type of batter has a dry to liquid ratio of 3:1. The batter is thicker and needs to be scraped from the bowl. It produces a moist, but fluffy baked good. Examples include muffins, biscuits, loaves, and coffee cake.

Stiff Dough: This type of batter has a dry to liquid ratio of 7:1. The batter is firm enough to roll and shape by hand. It produces a very light and fluffy baked good. Examples include biscuits, doughnuts, and scones.

cranberry orange oatmeal muffins in a muffin pan
Cranberry Orange Oatmeal MuffinsRadical Strength

Mixing methods for quick breads

There are three basic mixing methods for quick breads, the muffin method, the creaming method, and the biscuit method. I’ve described each method below as well as included video demonstrations.

Muffin method

The muffin method combines the liquid, sugar, liquid fat (such as melted butter or oil), and eggs at the same time. The dry ingredients are then added to the liquid ingredients. This method is commonly used for making muffins, loaves, pancakes, waffles or my Fresh Apple Cake.

There may be some lumps and clumps with this mixing method which is perfectly fine. You don’t want to over mix the batter while trying to make it completely smooth.

Creaming method

The creaming method uses softened fat rather than liquid fat. The softened fat is creamed together with the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. The eggs are then added one at a time. Finally, the dry ingredients and remaining liquid ingredients are alternately added. This method is used for various types of cookies. Try these fresh mint cookies or these caramel stuffed peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.

Biscuit method

The biscuit method involves first cutting the fat into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. I find a food processor particularly great for this process. Then the liquid ingredients are added. This method produces flaky items such as biscuits and scones.

Whichever method you are using it is important to mix the batter or dough as little as possible. This limits the amount of gluten that is developed ensuring the final baking product will be light and tender.

Types of baking pans

Now that your quick bread is mixed it’s time to bake! The type of pan you choose for baking makes a huge difference in the outcome of the final baked good.

Shiny Aluminum Pans produce baked goods that are consistent in color and texture. They prevent quick baked goods from becoming too dark on the bottom and around the sides of the pan.

Dark Nonstick Pans prevent baked goods from sticking but they tend to brown too quickly on the bottom and around the sides of the pan. To slow the browning process try reducing the oven temperature by 25°F.

Insulated Pans are made of two thin sheets of aluminum with a layer of air between them. Baked goods baked in insulated baking pans may require a longer baking time and often don’t brown as well on the bottom and around the sides of the pan.

Ovenproof Glass pans like dark nonstick pans absorb heat quickly. Baked goods baked in glass tend to brown too quickly on the bottom and around the sides of the pan. To slow the browning process try reducing the oven temperature by 25°F.

Ceramic Pans are very similar to glass pans. The same guideline to reduce the oven temperature by 25°F applies as well. I usually reserve ceramic pans for casseroles I want to serve at the table because they come in a variety of decorative colors.

Disposable Aluminum Pans are perfect for baked goods which will be given away as gifts.

Examples of quick breads

Muffins

apple cake baked in a bundt pan on a white plate
Homemade Fresh Apple CakeRaspberries and Kohlrabi

Cakes

Brownies

Cookies

stack of pumpkin pancakes on a decorative white plate
Pumpkin Spice PancakesRaspberries and Kohlrabi

Pancakes

3 crispy waffles on a white plate
Crispy WafflesRaspberries and Kohlrabi

Waffles

pumpkin sage biscuits on a cooling rack
Healthy Pumpkin Sage BiscuitsSweet Peas and Saffron

Biscuits

two cinnamon scones on a cooling rack
Cinnamon SconesThe Anthony Kitchen

Scones

Vanilla Birthday Cake Donuts on a blue board with a glass of milk
Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake DonutsGluten-Free Palate

Donuts

Loaves

I am always looking for new quick bread recipes. What are your favorites?

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Love learning all about certain types of foods and culinary processes? Check out a few of my other culinary guides.

Baking without yeast

Quick bread examples

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