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Eating Well: Deliciously simple quick breads

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Quick bread is just what its name implies - bread that is quick to make because it doesn't require kneading or rising time. That's because the leavener in such a bread is usually baking powder or baking soda, which, when combined with moisture, starts the rising process immediately.

Quick breads come in many sizes and varieties - there are literally hundreds of recipes out there, featuring fruits, spices, cheeses, puddings, cakes mixes, you name it - and you can bake most of them in virtually any pan type you'd like - loaf, bundt, regular cake pan size, etc.

The following recipes are four of my very favorites.

The Monkey Bread recipe is extremely quick, and ever so delicious, with the refrigerated buttermilk biscuits, eliminating the need for any additional baking powder or soda. There are several variations to this recipe, but I've found this one using the biscuits, brown sugar and ice cream by far one of the best. It only takes about ten minutes to assemble so it is fabulous served fresh from the oven for a late morning brunch. You can also bake it in a bundt pan and serve it on an elegant tray for a more upscale look. The Quick Coffee Cake, also with its cinnamon streusel topping is another winner, and fantastic served with any breakfast; as are the Pistachio and Yellow bread, which rely on a good old cake mix for their base ingredient, containing their own self-rising elements. The latter two are also great served as a snack with a little extra butter or your favorite jelly topping.

The coffee cake can be baked in a square glass or metal pan or a pie plate. The Pistachio and Yellow bread are best baked in traditional loaf pans. A little hint - if you don't have the regular loaf size pans, or yours are becoming a little worse for wear, purchase the disposable foil ones you can find at the grocery store. They are sturdy enough to be washed and used a couple of times, and then can be discarded and replaced by new ones. They are a little bit smaller, but the nice thing is that you sometimes end up with an extra loaf of bread, because the dough might not all fit in one or two pans.

All of these recipes freeze well, making it nice to be able to pull them out when company arrives unexpectedly.

Until next time, from my kitchen to yours, happy baking!

Monkey Bread

3 pkgs. Buttermilk refrigerator biscuits

Cut each circle in four pieces. Put in buttered 9x13 pan or Bundt pan. Sprinkle 1/4 cup white sugar mixed with 1 tsp. cinnamon over the top.

Melt in microwave:

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup vanilla ice cream

Pour over biscuits and bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Tip pan over on tin foil right after they are baked.

Streusel Coffee Cake

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 cups flour

3 tbsp. melted butter

Mix and spread in greased 9 x9 inch pan.

Mix and pour over the top:

4 tbsp. melted butter

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

5 tbsp. brown sugar

Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Pistachio Bread

1 package yellow cake mix

1 3 oz. package instant Pistachio pudding mix

4 eggs

1 1/4 cup oil

1 tsp. almond extract

7 drops green food coloring

Blend ingredients in mixing bowl. Beat 4 minutes at medium speed. Pour into greased and floured loaf pans (2 pans or 3 smaller ones.) Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Yellow Bread

1 package yellow cake mix

1 3 oz. package vanilla instant pudding

3/4 cup oil

3/4 cup water

4 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1tsp. imitation butter

Mix all together in bowl and beat full 8 minutes.

Stir together 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon.

Pour batter in two loaf pans. Make 3 slits in top of bread with a knife. Take a spoon and sprinkle sugar mixture in slits. Then take a knife and swirl this mixture through cake.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Cool for ten minutes in pan before removing.