Quick Fix

Psychologists say that food aromas linger in the memory longer than actual taste. That’s why realtors suggest that sellers bake apples, chocolate-chip cookies or a loaf of bread just before their house is being shown. The smells instill an at-home feeling filled with warm memories.

But you don’t need to wait to sell home and hearth in order to enjoy “home bakes.” Quick breads — those moist, cake-like breads and muffins — fill the kitchen with tantalizing aromas at any season. And they work out exactly as they sound: They’re mixed in minutes and ready to eat inside half-an-hour.

Add warm-weather fruits and vegetables to the batter, and these standard baked goodies take on a whole new dimension. Produce aisles are ablaze with color, from royal purple eggplant and orange bell peppers to golden apricots and plump red berries. Fruits and veggies are at an all-time high in flavor, texture and nutrition.

The raising agent in quick breads is double-acting baking powder, a perfectly balanced mixture of bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar, which begins to work as soon as liquids are added to dry ingredients. Bubbles of carbon dioxide form in the mixing bowl and expand to form tiny pockets of air.

When the batter comes in contact with oven heat, it continues to expand to form the cake-like breads that are so good to eat. And now that convenience mixes and frozen doughs are an accepted part of home cooking, quick breads have expanded far beyond their traditional role.

All the recipes below may be frozen, though shortcake is best eaten soon after baking. Fruits and vegetables may be substituted according to taste and whatever is freshest in the market at bake time.

Roasted Eggplant-Pepper Pockets

1 small red bell pepper, cored 1/4 medium eggplant, peeled
1 small onion, sliced
2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsps. barbecue sauce
1 lb. frozen bread dough, thawed

Preheat broiler. Spray broiler pan with nonstick vegetable spray.

Cut pepper and eggplant in 1/2-inch pieces, and toss together in broiler pan with onion, oil and garlic powder. Broil 5 minutes. Turn vegetables over and broil 5 minutes longer, or until vegetables are soft.

Stir in barbecue sauce. Cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a baking sheet.

Divide bread dough in quarters. Roll one piece into rectangle about 5×3-inches. Place a quarter of the vegetable mixture in center and pull edges out to cover. Pinch to seal. Place seam-side down on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and vegetable mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until nicely browned. Pockets should sound hollow when tapped on bottom.

Serves 4.

South of the Border Corn Bread

1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
small mild chile pepper, diced (such as chile verde)
1/4 cup cilantro, snipped
3?4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 package (8.5 oz.) corn-muffin mix
1 egg
1/3 cup skim or regular milk
Preheat oven to 400F.

Spray 9x9x2-inch baking pan with nonstick vegetable spray.

In a medium bowl, combine corn, red pepper, chile pepper, cilantro and 1/2 cup cheese

Stir in corn-muffin mix. With a fork, stir in egg and milk until ingredients are just moistened.

Spoon into prepared baking pan and sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden and center is firm to touch.

Serve warm.

Makes 12 pieces.

Zucchini Mini-Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Tbsp. lemon-pepper seasoning
1 cup grated zucchini (unpeeled)
1/4 cup basil, snipped finely
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbsps. melted butter
1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400F.

Spray a tray of mini-muffin pans with nonstick vegetable spray.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, lemon pepper, zucchini and basil. Make a well in center and stir in egg, butter and milk. Batter should be sticky but hold its shape. Spoon into muffins pans.

Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and top is crusty. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Quick Tip: For a breakfast treat, split the leftover muffins, toast them, and spread with vegetable cream cheese.

Makes 12 muffins.

Apricot-Honey Midget Loaves

3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsps. honey
4 apricots, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds
2 Tbsps. lime peel
2 Tbsps. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla flavoring

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F.

Spray two loaf pans, approximately 6×31/2-inches, with nonstick vegetable spray

Whisk egg whites until stiff and set aside. In separate bowl, whisk egg yolks, sugar and honey until pale.

Stir in apricots, almonds, lime peel, butter and vanilla. Add flour and baking powder; mix well. Fold in whipped egg whites.

Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake for 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire tray before slicing.

Makes 2 loaves.

Cappuccino Shortcake With Strawberries and Cream

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsps. baking powder
1 Tbsp. instant cappuccino coffee powder
2 Tbsps. butter
1 egg
scant 1/4 cup milk
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup cream, whipped or nondairy whipped topping

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and 2 teaspoons cappuccino powder. Cut in butter until consistency of fine bread crumbs. Add egg and 2 tablespoons milk to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Use a little more milk if needed.

Turn onto a well-floured board and shape into a round about 1-inch thick. Place on baking sheet and sprinkle with remaining cappuccino powder. Mark into 4 wedges.

Bake for 20 minutes until bottom sounds hollow when tapped with fingers.

To Serve: Reserve 4 strawberries. Split each wedge. Spoon remaining berries over bottom shortcake halves and top with a spoonful whipped cream. Replace tops. Garnish with a dollop whipped cream and remaining berries.

Serves 4.

Ethel G. Hofman is a cookbook author and a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Reach her at: www.kosherfoodconsultants. com.



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