OPINION | FRONT BURNER: Make this cheesy, spicy quick bread with beer or buttermilk

Cheddar-Jalapeno Quick Bread made with beer (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Cheddar-Jalapeno Quick Bread made with beer (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Like most avid cooks and bakers, I have a (bad) habit of saving recipes and then misplacing or forgetting about them until much later. Usually, when I come back to a recipe I saved for my "to-make" list it's with the same excitement as when I found it the first time. "Oooh! I want to make that." But occasionally, I'll find one that leaves me wondering why I ever saved it.

That was the case with a cheddar-herb quick bread I had on one of the many, many tabs on my phone's web browser. Sure, the recipe sounded good in name, but reading through the ingredients and instructions, I immediately questioned my judgment. The quick recipe included "a little bit" — 1 whole tablespoon! — of yeast to give it "a traditional bread flavor." But it didn't call for letting the dough proof/rise.

For those who don't bake yeast bread, a tablespoon is not "a little" yeast. Most yeast bread recipes use a basic formula of 2 ¼ teaspoons of yeast for up to 4 cups of flour. The recipe called for just over 2 cups of flour. I'm certain that recipe would have tasted like disappointment and ended up in the trash can. (My advice to would-be bakers wishing to make quick bread with a more "traditional bread flavor" is to skip the yeast and use beer in place of the liquid.)

Instead, using another common baking formula, I came up with this cheesy quick bread.

What's the formula, you ask?

  photo  Cheddar-Jalapeno Quick Bread made with buttermilk (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)  For quick breads such as cornbread, pancakes, muffins and the like use 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons chemical leavener per 1 cup of flour.

To leaven with baking powder only use 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder per cup of flour. Batters that include heavy bits such as fruits, vegetables, cheese or meat will benefit from 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder per cup flour.

To leaven with baking powder and baking soda, add ½ teaspoon baking soda and reduce the baking powder by up to 2 teaspoons. However, for recipes calling for baking soda, it needs to be activated by an acidic ingredient, such as buttermilk, yogurt, chocolate, fruit juice or beer.

(Baking powder, by the way, has the acid built-in with one or more of the following: sodium pyrophosphate, monocalcium phosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate and tartaric acid, so there's no need for the additional acid to activate it.)

The following cheddar-jalapeno bread can be made with buttermilk or beer. Both work equally well but result in slightly different flavors and textures. Made with buttermilk, this bread has a more pronounced cheddar flavor. Made with beer, the crumb is moist and the jalapeno really sings.

Both are excellent. You can't go wrong either way. Unless you don't like beer. In that case, stick with the buttermilk. If you don't have beer or buttermilk, that's OK too, just use regular milk and a teaspoon or so of the juice from the jalapenos.

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Cheddar-Jalapeno Quick Bread

  • 2 ½ cups flour (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups (about 6 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons minced pickled jalapeno pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced green onion tops OR 2 teaspoons dried chives
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk OR beer (stout or wheat beer work well)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a standard loaf pan or 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray or butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cheese, jalapenos and green onion or chives.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs and buttermilk. If using beer, whisk the butter and eggs and then carefully add the beer, stirring slowly to mix.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and mix well.

Pour or scrape dough (the buttermilk dough will be quite thick and shaggy) into the prepared pan. Bake 60 to 75 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes; turn loaf out onto a rack and cool 10 minutes more before slicing. Best served warm. Leftovers will keep, but not taste quite as good, well wrapped for up to 3 days. Leftover bread is best served lightly toasted.

Makes 1 loaf.

Note: Can use all-purpose or a combination of all-purpose and whole-wheat pastry flour.

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