My kids love it when I make homemade breads and muffins - the climb all over each other to be the first one to get to the banana bread or carrot bread or pumpkin muffins. They get so excited when they see me mixing, or smell it baking, or see it come out of the oven. I can hardly make them wait until it's cool enough to eat. But I haven't been making it all that often, because it just seems like too much work and advance planning. I am no good at setting butter or eggs in advance out to get to room temp, and the creaming of butter and sugar seems like a lot of effort, and I can't stand the mess of all the bowls I need to wash. Sometimes it just seems like more trouble than it's worth. I've got a lot going on.
But I couldn't help but think that there had to be an easier way. There had to be a way to shortcut some of those steps. So I set out to figure it out.
My goals: it had to be easy, it had to be fast, but it still had to be relatively healthy. I wasn't going to trade off making it easier by using processed junk. So many quick bread recipes you see call for so much sugar, it's crazy. We need to just be honest with ourselves and call those things for what they are: they are cake. If a recipe has a couple of cups of sugar in it, it's not bread. It's cake. And don't get me wrong, I love cake. But not for an everyday staple, for a school day breakfast or an after school snack. So I had to come up with a recipe that was going to taste great but not be loaded with sugar. And I think I've done it!
This is it folks, the last quick bread recipe you will ever need.
This recipe is made with whole wheat flour, whole fruits and veggies, and no refined sugar (or very little, if you decide to add some). It is sweetened with just a little honey and the natural flavors of fruit. Best of all - it's made all in the blender, and takes less than 5 minutes from start until it's in the oven. It is so fast and easy, you are just not even going to believe it. This is not your grandma's banana bread - there is no need to let your butter or eggs come to room temperature, there is no creaming of butter and sugar. You aren't washing multiple bowls.
This. Is. Easy.
It's the perfect balance of hearty and sweet, with a little tang from plain yogurt. It's moist in the middle, just a little chewy and just a little crumbly, with a nice crunch of crust on the top. Spread a hot slice with some butter, or a little cream cheese, and I think you've got breakfast or snack time perfection.
What I have for you is a basic master recipe that can be used to make any number of flavors of quick bread. You can turn this into a super quick zucchini bread, banana bread, pumpkin bread, apple bread, carrot bread, or whatever else you like. I've tried it with all of those, and a number of combinations. I LOVE the combinations. I've made apple + carrot, carrot + pear, zucchini + banana, apple + carrot + chocolate chip. The combination of a little fruit and a little veggie gives a great flavor and just the right amount of sweetness. See the variations below for some suggestions of flavor combinations.
This is not a super sweet loaf, because that's how I like it. If you like your breads to be more sweet, then you'll want to increase the honey or add a little sugar (I included a bit of brown sugar in the ingredients as optional - read my note about it).
I recommend you read all the way through before starting. This is very easy, but the technique is a little different than what you are used to, so you want to read the directions before you just start tossing stuff in a bowl. This is still a basic "mix your wet, then mix your dry, the combine the two" type of situation, but the way you mix the wet and the way you combine are a little different.
Ingredients: (in the order in which I add them)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (I use whole milk yogurt. Sour cream will work too)
Approximately 1 cup pureed fruit and/or veggies (apple, banana, carrot, zucchini, pumpkin, etc.). Or enough whole fruit & veg, roughly chopped, to make about a cup pureed. (see notes & variations below)
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
optional: 1/4 cup brown sugar (see notes)
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon (see notes & variations)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Oil spray or butter for the baking pan.
optional: up to a cup of chopped nuts, raisins, chopped fruit, or even chocolate chips!
Recipe makes 1 regular loaf, or 3 mini loaves, or 12 standard size muffins, or about 3 dozen mini muffins. I don't recommend doubling this with the blender method, the blender would be too full and it won't mix properly. But it's so fast and easy to mix up that making several at a time is no problem. I made 3 different batches in less than 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350, or 300 convection. Grease a loaf pan or a muffin pan. (Rub it with a bit of butter, or if you're in a hurry like me just hit it with a little spray oil. I use a coconut oil spray that I get at Trader Joe's.)
Mix together the "wet" ingredients:
In your blender, put honey, yogurt, and fruit and veggies. Pulse the blender until the fruit and veggies are mostly pureed and well blended. Check your quantity - if you are not at 2 cups, you can add a little more fruit and puree some more.
Add butter, egg, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar if you are using it. Turn on blender to mix at a medium speed until the butter is blended in. This should only take a few seconds, unless your butter is super hard. Pulse it a few times, check to make sure the butter isn't still in a chunk. If you still have some big chunks of butter, then puree a bit more.
Mix together the "dry" ingredients:
In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder.
Combine wet and dry.
Method 1: all in the blender. You can do this all in the blender if you have a high powered blender. Just dump the flour mixture in, put the lid on tight, and turn it on at a high setting. On a Vitamix - this would be variable 9 or 10 - turn the dial to 9 or 10 and then pulse it on and off (don't start on low and turn it up, just start it on high). That will suck some of the flour down to the bottom. Then get in there with a spatula or spoon and stir a little, pulse again, stir a little. You are just trying to get the dry just mixed with the wet so there are no obvious areas of dry flour left. Don't overmix, you just want the flour moistened.
Method 2: in a bowl. You can also do this step in a bowl - just pour your wet mixture in the bowl with the dry, and gently stir until all the flour is moistened.
It should be a fairly thick batter. Pureed raw fruit will still release more moisture when it bakes, so you want to start out with a fairly thick batter in order to have a finished baked good that's not too moist. But if you think it really is too dry to mix together without having to work it too hard, then add a little more moisture. You can add up to a quarter cup of milk, or applesauce, or yogurt.
If you are adding any chopped nuts or fruit or chocolate chips, you will want to do this last step in a bowl. Pour the wet mixture over the dry, add your nuts or chocolate chips, and fold it all together until combined.
Then dump it in your greased loaf pan, or divide into muffin pans, and bake. I've been using this for mini muffins, and using a small cookie scoop to make it quick and even.
(approximate, will vary depending on your oven):
Full size loaf: 1 hour
Mini loaves: 30 minutes
Full size muffins: 25 minutes
Mini muffins: 15 minutes
This is not a very sweet recipe. I put a 1/4 cup of brown sugar in there as optional - if you like your breads on the sweeter side, you'll want to add this. Or if you are starting with just veggies that aren't very sweet (like zucchini, or pumpkin), then you'll probably want it. But if you are using super ripe bananas that are already very sweet, or sweet applesauce, then I don't think you need it. If you are adding chocolate chips, then you probably don't need it.
If you are starting with already pureed fruit, then just measure 1 cup and add it to the rest of the wet ingredients and puree.
If you are starting with whole fruit and veggies, you need to estimate what will be enough to total no more than 2 cups when blended with the yogurt and honey. Start with a little, puree, and read the measurement on the side of the blender, then add more if you need to.
If you're worried about pureeing all your fruit and having no actual texture or chunks of fruit, just dice or grate a little and fold that in at the end, the same time as when you would add any nuts or chocolate chips. Remember it will release moisture though, so cut back on your puree just a tiny bit.
I have made this with all purpose white flour. It works. Personally I think the whole wheat version tastes better, it gives it a heartiness that you don't get from white flour, and I think the texture is nicer. But if you want to do it with white flour, go for it. You might want to decrease your wet ingredients just a bit, because the white flour doesn't seem to absorb as much liquid. I have also done half white and half wheat, and that works well.
I have not yet tried it with a gluten free flour, but I will soon. If you try it, let me know.
You could totally skip the yogurt and add an extra 1/4 cup of fruit puree instead (or an extra banana). I just like the little bit of tang that it gives, I think it rounds out the sweet fruit flavors really nicely. It seems to also somehow help contribute to a little crunch in the crust. You can also replace the yogurt with sour cream.
You can do this with less butter, or skip the butter and add more yogurt or some applesauce.
Quantities of fruit and veggies here are approximate and will vary depending on size. You still want to follow the rule of no more than 2 cups total when pureed with the honey and yogurt. I want you to experiment! Tell me what combinations you try!
Banana Bread: 3 very ripe bananas, 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
Pumpkin Bread: 1 1/4 cups organic canned pureed pumpkin, replace the cinnamon with 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, replace the honey with real maple syrup, and add 1/4 cup brown sugar.
Apple Bread: 2 medium tart & juicy apples (I've been using Jonagold), 2 teaspoons cinnamon. I think this one is my favorite. It tastes like pie.
Zucchini Bread: 1 medium zucchini, just 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and add 1/4 cup brown sugar.
Apple + Carrot Bread: 1 medium apple, 2 medium carrots, 2 teaspoons cinnamon.
Carrot + Pear Bread: 1 medium pear, 2 medium carrots, 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
Banana chocolate chip: 3 very ripe bananas, 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips, no cinnamon (I don't like cinnamon and chocolate together in this kind of thing).
The possible combinations are endless! We made one this week with carrot, pear, apple, and chocolate chips.