The Art of Quick-Bread Baking

September 12, 2017

Muffins, scones and biscuits all fall into the category of 'quick breads'--but don't be confused, they are NOT breads, and they use completely different skills and techniques.

If I had to distill my advice on quick breads down to one or two comments only, it would be this:
1.  For scones and biscuits--cut in frozen butter, and then add the buttermilk quickly, handling (mixing) the dough as little as possible.
2.  For muffins--blend or cream the butter, sugar and eggs thoroughly--but again, when adding the flour and dry ingredients--do this as gently and minimally as possible.

WHY?  Here is what ultimately separates bread baking from quick bread baking. When you make bread, the more you knead the dough the better it becomes.  But with scones and muffins (and biscuits), the more you 'work' the dough or batter, the tougher and more rubber-y they become.  The reasons are the same--and the culprit is gluten.  Bread thrives on well-developed gluten to give it is structure and characteristic 'chew', and gluten is developed as you knead the dough.  For muffins and scones, you want the formation of gluten to be minimal so you 'work' the dough or batter minimally. 

How does this translate into practice? It means that when you make quick breads, you work the liquid and dry ingredients together by hand, with a spatula. Run your spatula around the bowl and along the bottom, scooping from the bottom and bringing it up to the top to be sure that the dry ingredients get combined into the liquid.  Continue doing this until the dough/batter JUST begins to come together--and quit!

Fill the muffin tins--or turn the scone/biscuit dough out onto a floured board and cut your scones. Done!

No Soggy Bottoms (and other scone-making tips from the Brits!)

Flavor Layering

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