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Chat Leftovers: The well-bread muffin

It's Wednesday, and time for another Free Range chat, our weekly 1 p.m. get-together where questions get answered, ideas get shared and prizes get awarded. All that in one hour! It's a regular little miracle.

Recipe Included

If you tune in today, you'll be spending time with some of the usual crew plus Wenonah Hauter of Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit group that works on food and environmental issues, and Howard Magwire of the United Egg Producers.

So set your computer alarm for 1. And meanwhile, here's an unanswered leftover from a previous chat to tide you over for the next few hours.

I’ve been baking zucchini bread and muffins (among other things) in my quest to use my garden-fresh zucchini. For the muffins, I used the same recipe as for the bread. They came out okay; but in general, is it all right to use the same recipe for bread and for muffins, except for the baking times? Or is there some trick I’m missing that would make the muffins taste better?

Good instincts! You've been doing exactly the right thing.

Quick breads (such as your zucchini bread) have versatile batter that can be baked into regular loaves, mini-loaves or muffins. You don't have to adjust the recipe at all, and you can use the same oven temperature. But you do have to change the baking time.

Unfortunately, there's no hard-and-fast rule for adapting baking times. The best way to proceed is by trial and error. When turning bread into muffins, never fill the muffin cups more than three-quarters full, and always set the oven timer for about 10 minutes before you think the muffins should be finished, then start testing for doneness.

The muffin world really opens up once you realize that every quick bread recipe is a muffin recipe in disguise! When zucchini season is over, you can branch out with confidence into other variations. Here's a recipe from our archives that has been used to make both loaves and muffins and includes baking instructions for both.

-- Jane Touzalin

Julia Ewan/The Washington Post

Ev's Pumpkin Bread

This bread freezes beautifully, if it lasts long enough to get wrapped and out of the reach of willing tasters. The original recipe called for less cinnamon and nutmeg, but Evelyn Small says that over the years she has increased them, being partial to both spices.

Makes three 8-inch loaves or about 24 muffins

2 1/2 to 3 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
2 eggs, beaten
6 to 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease three 8-by-4-inch aluminum foil loaf pans or two 12-compartment muffin pans (or use paper cupcake liners).

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, spices, salt and baking soda.

In a medium bowl, combine the oil, water, pumpkin puree and eggs.

Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture and combine thoroughly, making sure no unblended dry ingredients linger at the bottom of the bowl. Add the chocolate chips, if using, and stir to combine.

Divide the batter equally among the pans; muffin cups should be two-thirds full. Bake the loaves for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or the top of the loaves are springy to the touch. (Muffins will take about 40 minutes.) Let cool completely before cutting and storing.

Adapted from Evelyn Small, a former contributing editor of Book World.

By Jane Touzalin  |  August 25, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Chat Leftovers  | Tags: Chat Leftovers, Free Range, Jane Touzalin  
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How is a quick bread different from a cake? Thanks!

Posted by: rahelamma | August 25, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

A cake is not just a quick bread with frosting! The two share many of the same basic ingredients, but in different ratios. A quick bread will have a greater proportion of flour, which gives it a breadier, somewhat coarser texture and allows the batter to suspend solid ingredients (raisins, nuts, etc.) that might just sink to the bottom of a cake (or, sometimes, float). By manipulating ingredient proportions, you can turn a cake recipe into a quick bread recipe and vice versa. A book that explains all this very nicely is "Ratio" by Michael Ruhlman.

Posted by: Jane Touzalin | August 25, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

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