I was listening to NPR this week and her a piece on All Things Considered with Shirley Corriher, who is an Atlanta-based food chemist and cookbook author. She offered advice for some common kitchen quandary.
In a recent baking disaster, NPR‘s Melissa Block made a tasty but dense zucchini bread that didn’t rise.
“Well, you’ve got a couple of options here,” says Corriher. “No. 1: Your baking powder was old and totally gone and inactive.”
“No,” interrupts Block. “It was new!”
“No. 2,” says Corriher, “You had very fresh, very nice baking powder or soda, but the recipe called for too much. Now, when you get too much leavening, the bubbles get big, they bump into each other, they get huge, they float to the top and pop, and there goes your leavening. And your zucchini bread is as heavy as lead.”
Corriher warns that a baker’s first impulse — to add more leavening — is wrong. In fact, she says, less leavening will probably correct the problem. She says many perfectly workable cookbooks have recipes that call for too much leavening. The recipes turn out much lighter when less baking powder or soda is used.
“You need 1 teaspoon per baking powder per cup of flour in the recipe, or 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of flour in the recipe,” she recommends.
Here is the recipe Shirley for Shirley’s Banana Bread….
Moist Banana Nut Bread
from BakeWise by Shirley O. Corriher
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 Tbs butter
3/4 tsp salt, divided
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 pinch cinnamon
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups mashed ripe banana
1/2 cup heavy cream
Place your oven shelf in the lower third of your oven, and preheat 350 degrees.
Arrange the pecans evenly on a large baking sheet. Place in the preheated oven and roast the nuts for about 10 minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and stir in the butter and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Then allow the nuts to cool. Chop coarsely, and set aside.
Turn your oven up to 375 degrees now. Apply cooking spray and flour to a loaf pan. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine the oil, vanilla, eggs, buttermilk, and bananas. Form a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and pour the liquid ingredients into the well. Stir until just incorporated.
Use an electric mixer to whip the whipping cream until it forms soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream gently into the batter. Add the nuts and fold those in as well.
Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until the loaf is a light golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing the bread from the pan. Then let it cool completely before slicing.