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More and more these days I find myself baking from scratch. There are the artisan breads, the automatic bread maker breads and more recently artisan pizza. All of these hand baked items are far superior to store bought – no sneaky ingredients or preservatives that I can not pronounce – plus, they cost pennies to make. (Actually, about 50 cents which is still far less than $4 or more for store bought in my my neck of the woods.)
And then there are quick breads. Not quite cake but not quite bread either. These are the banana breads and zucchini breads that are favored as a breakfast treat or bed time snack.
Now by my own standards, I do not eat sweet things very often. I prefer fresh fruits and a nightly square of really yummy dark chocolate. Still, even I know that push come to shove (or SHTF), all I will have to feed myself will be stored foods or those from my own garden. And while honing your bread making skills is something you should definitely do, there is still the problem of yeast. Unless you have a freezer and power to the freezer, you may soon run out of yeast since the shelf life is at best 25 years under the most ideal of conditions.
On the other hand, if properly stored, baking powder can last up to 25 years.
Hint: Do not believe the rather arbitrary expiration date printed on the baking powder tin. Moisture and heat are the enemies so if you avoid those, your baking powder will live on indefinitely. Also, remember that the effectiveness of baking power can be tested by placing a teaspoon of the powder into a small container of hot water. If it fizzes like crazy, it is alive and well and can be used in your baked goods.
So now I want to get on to the real topic of todays article: baking a nice, homey quick breads using the ingredients on hand or from your garden. The bread I refer to is called A to Z Bread and it is hands down, the easiest and the best quick bread you will ever make or ever eat. But the really neat thing is that you can mix and match your ingredients. Have bananas? Great. What about a giant zucchini from the garden that you cannot even give away? Canned pineapple or freeze dried berries? All good.
A bit of history
When I was a young bride in the mid-70s, I clipped a recipe from the Contra Costa Times (I was living in Pleasant Hill, California right outside Walnut Creek.) It was called A to Z Bread and was the inspiration of Hazel Gentry, a local lady in my community. I pasted the recipe in my master recipe book, fondly called “the Green Book”, and found myself making this quick bread over and over again. As a matter of fact, I made it so often that I would store premix the dry ingredients and store them in baggies.
Over time I became more confident in my cooking and baking skills and started substituting some whole wheat flour for the white flour and even added a scoop of oat bran, sunflower seeds or chocolate chips.
Sounds good? How about the recipe?
A to Z Bread
3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. cinnamon (optional and I never use it)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. oil
2 c. sugar
2 c. A to Z ingredients (mix and match from below)
3 tsp. vanilla
1 c. chopped nuts (also optional)
Sift dry ingredients and set aside. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add oil and sugar and cream well. And yes, with elbow grease you can do this by hand – no mixer needed.
Add your choice of A to Z ingredients, plus vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix well again. Fold in nuts, then spoon into two well-greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.
Use one of the following, or a mixture, equal to 2 cups except as indicated:
Apples — grated
Apricots — chopped
Bananas — mashed
Carrots — grated
Cherries — pitted & chopped
Coconut — fresh ground
Dates — pitted, finely chopped
Eggplant — ground
Figs — finely chopped
Grapes — seedless
Honey — omit sugar
Lemons — only 1/2 c. juice
Marmalade — omit 1 c. sugar
Oranges — chopped
Peaches — fresh or canned, chopped
Peppermint — use only 1/2 c.
Pineapple — crushed, well drained
Prunes — chopped, only 1 c.
Pumpkin — canned
Rhubarb — finely chopped
Strawberries — fresh or well-drained frozen
Sweet potato — coarsely grated
Tapioca — cooked
Tomatoes — use only 1/2 c. sugar
Yams — cooked & mashed
Yogurt — plain or flavored
Zucchini — ground or grated, well-drained
The Final Word
One of the reasons I am sharing my A to Z with you today is that comfort foods are important even without the stress of SHTF. What could be more comforting than a nice slice of zucchini bread (or apple bread or banana bread) with some homemade honey butter? (Try making the honey butter using butter powder from Emergency Essentials – yummy!)
The other thing is that by using the bounty from your own garden or pantry (fresh or freeze dried), you always have something available to provide a unique taste to your quick bread. Besides, baking quick breads from scratch is just darn fun!
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: Are your ready to do some baking from scratch. It really is easy, you know. Here are some items to get you started.
Lodge Cast Iron Loaf Pan: This is next on my “cast iron that I covet list”. As you know, cast iron heats up evenly and retains heat for super cooking results. Mmmm . . . think of the quick breads, meat loaves and more from a cast iron loaf pan!
Ove’ Glove Hot Surface Handler: These oven gloves withstand extreme heat up to 540 degrees F. If you could see the scars that I have from my pre-Ove Glove days, you would know why I endorse them. They can be used by both left and right handers and are washable in the washing machine. A Survival Woman must have if you do any cooking at all.
Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day: This is the latest edition in the Artisan In Five series and possibly the best. And yes, I need to write about and review this book. But that takes longer than five minutes LOL.
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking: At an average cost of 50 cents a loaf, this bread is easy, delicious and inexpensive to make.
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