This section is from the book "Mrs. Allen's Cook Book", by Mrs. Ida C. Bailey Allen. See also: The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat.
There is almost no type of cookery in which there are so many failures as in the making, of quick breads, and yet there is no food that ought to be more carefully made because it is generally served at breakfast when the digestive organs are not yet toned up. If the hot bread is not properly cooked, and therefore easily assimilated, it is frequently the cause of indigestion.
It is by no means necessary to be glued to a recipe in this regard, if one can keep in mind the general proportions of liquid, baking powder, flour and shortening for making breads of this type. Generally speaking these proportions are as follows:
Two-thirds as much liquid as flour; a teaspoonful of baking powder to each cup of flour; a tablespoonful or less of butter or other shortening to each pint of liquid and one or two eggs to three cupfuls of flour.
Muffins. The general proportions are: A cupful of milk, 2 cupfuls of flour, 3 teaspoonfuls baking powder, and from one to three tablespoonfuls of shortening.
Observe the above general proportions substituting a half teaspoonful of soda for each cupful of sour milk, buttermilk, or sour cream. If the milk is not very sour, it may be neutralized by the addition of one-fourth teaspoonful of soda, and baking powder may be added to the mixture in two-thirds the usual quantity.
The general proportions are half as much liquid as flour, from one to two tablespoonfuls of shortening to each cup of flour and two teaspoonfuls of baking powder to each cupful of flour.
In adding any grain or meal to a plain muffin recipe, use 3/4 cupful in place of a cupful of the flour. The liquid may remain the same as indicated, as the grain will swell enough to take it up. Sugar and salt may be added as desired, but a word must be said for the unsweetened, or simply slightly sweetened, breakfast bread. We Americans are liable to demand a cake rather than a bread, and then wonder why we are conscious of the existence of that organ called the liver!
The oven should be hot (375 degrees F.) for all baking powder biscuit mixtures and all muffins. Popovers need a slow oven (about 300 degrees F.) to allow for the full expansion of the air which is the only leavening agent. Quick loaf breads demand a heat of 350 degrees F. which should be greatly lessened during the last quarter of the baking time.
The pans should be slightly warmed and very well oiled with lard or beef drippings.
Moulds the size of pound baking powder cans should be steamed an hour and a half. Large moulds, the size of a three-pound lard pail, should be steamed four hours. Always start the mould with the water cold and bring gradually to boiling point so that the mixture will heat evenly throughout. Count the steaming from the time that the water commences to boil.
If possible, use an aluminum or soapstone griddle, or even one of steel and do not oil it, simply rub it off occasionally with a bag containing salt. Cakes baked in this way are light and digestible. However, if a fried flavor is especially liked, the griddle may be oiled easily by means of a swab or cloth tied onto a skewer. Drippings, lard, or bacon fat may be used, or any of the vegetable oils, but butter or oleomargarine burn too quickly to be adopted.
Mix the griddle cake mixture in a pitcher and pour out to the desired size on the griddle, which should be almost smoking hot. Test the ungreased griddle with a bit of the dough. The cakes are ready to turn when they are full of bubbles. They should be turned only once.