High Country Baking: Walnut quick bread
High Country Baking
How about breakfast in bed for mom on Sunday, May 9? That’s a great way to start her special day. And if you present her with this fine-crumbed quick bread, you won’t have to get up early in the morning to bake it. It’s best if made the day before serving and can even be prepared weeks ahead and frozen. It’s a welcome treat any time of day — at breakfast, as a snack, with coffee or tea, as an accompaniment to a soup and salad supper, or with grapes and cheeses after dinner. Your mother will love it.
Because of its subtle flavor and moist texture, I prefer the walnut bread plain. If you want to embellish it, stay with something simple, like a little butter or whipped cream cheese. It toasts very well, so if it’s still around after more than a few days, don’t toss it; stick it in the toaster.
Walnut quick bread
Adjusted for altitudes of 7,800 feet and above. Make in a 6-cup nonstick Bundt or loaf pan or three 5-by-3-inch loaf pans.
- 2 cups bleached all-purpose flour (spoon and level)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick), at room temperature
- 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s superfine
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup light or regular sour cream
- 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped medium
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the center position. Line the loaf pan(s) with nonstick aluminum foil, regular foil or parchment paper. Grease the regular foil, parchment and any exposed parts of the pan with a baking spray that contains flour. If using a Bundt pan, spray it generously and spread the spray with a paper towel to ensure even coverage of all parts of the pan.
Combine the flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl and whisk vigorously until well mixed and without lumps. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until very light in color and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl several times during this process. Break the eggs into a 2-cup measure or small bowl and beat lightly. Add them slowly, one tablespoon at a time, to the butter mixture and beat until fully incorporated after each addition.
On the lowest mixer speed or by hand, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three additions, fully incorporating the flour after each addition.
Blend in the sour cream and vanilla, and finally stir in the nuts. Gently mix the batter by hand at this stage and stop as soon as the new additions are incorporated.
Scrape the dough into the prepared pan(s), filling them two-thirds full. Level and smooth the tops and rap each pan on a hard surface to eliminate any air pockets in the dough. Place the loaf pans on a baking sheet and bake until the loaves are light golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Start checking at 33 minutes. If using a Bundt pan, place it directly on the oven rack so air can circulate up the pan’s center; it will take more time to bake than the smaller loaf pans, so start checking at 45 minutes.
Remove the pan(s) to a cooling rack. After 10 minutes, use the liners to lift the loaves out of the pans. Cool the bread completely on the rack and wrap airtight. Cool the Bundt pan on a rack for 15 minutes, carefully invert it, turn the bread out of the pan, and let it cool completely. The taste and texture improve if the bread sits for several hours or overnight, and it is much easier to cut after this resting period. A serrated knife makes nice, clean slices. Well-wrapped, it stores for two days and freezes well.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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