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Fine Cooking offers tips to avoid sunken quick bread

A friend and colleague has a rhubarb bread recipe her family loves, but she recently asked for tips to keep the loaf from sinking in the middle.

We were initially tempted to tinker with the amount of leavening in the quick bread, but after comparing it to a couple of other similar recipes, we agreed that probably wasn’t the problem.

Instead, we turned to “How to Break an Egg: 1,453 Kitchen Tips, Food Fixes, Emergency Solutions and Handy Techniques,” by the editors of Fine Cooking magazine.

The editors said one of the most common reasons layer cakes and quick breads fall is that the pan is overfilled. “If the batter reaches the top of the pan and still needs to rise, it will collapse,” they wrote.

They also recommended checking to make sure the leavening (baking soda or baking powder) was not stale. Baking soda can be kept for six months and baking powder for one year. Discard after the date printed on the package.

My friend also lowered her oven temperature by 25 degrees because she uses stoneware, which tends to retain heat longer, rather than a metal baking pan.

“Thanks to your tips, I successfully baked a zucchini bread recipe that has always suffered the sunken middle just like the rhubarb bread. I think a combination of lower oven temperature and not overfilling pans made the difference,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Here are a few other things to try if your quick bread baking results aren’t what you expect:

• Check your oven temperature. Buy an oven thermometer and confirm that the actual temperature is close to the recommended temperature.

• Reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees for glass pans.

• Be sure there isn’t too much liquid in your ingredients. Squeeze excess water from zucchini in several changes of paper towels. Carefully measure rhubarb or bananas to be sure the ratio of wet to dry ingredients is correct.

• Grease only the bottom of the pans. This will allow the batter to cling to the sides of the pan while rising and form a rounded top. A crack down the center is the sign of a good loaf and is caused by steam escaping during baking.

• Don’t overmix the batter. Try mixing quick breads together by hand or by machine on the lowest setting just until ingredients are incorporated. Then stir in nuts, dried fruits or other add-ins.

• Bake quick breads as soon as the ingredients are assembled and place the loaf pans in the center of the oven for best results.

• Test breads with a long skewer. It should come out clean; if it doesn’t or if there appears to be some wet dough at the top of the loaf, continue baking for five to 10 minutes until done.

• Cool quick breads in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on a wire rack.

My friend shared her recipes. Thanks, Gina.

Rhubarb Bread

For the bread:

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2/3 cup oil

1 egg

¾ cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

Pinch salt

1 1/2 cups rhubarb

For the topping:

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon melted butter

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Mix the first 9 ingredients in the order given and split dough between 2 greased loaf pans.

Stir together topping ingredients and sprinkle over the top of the raw dough.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until done.

Yield: 2 loaves

Maple Zucchini Bread

3 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

3 teaspoons maple flavored extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup wheat germ

½ teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups grated zucchini

1 cup chopped walnuts

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs; add oil, sugars and flavoring, mixing until foamy.

Blend in the flour, wheat germ, baking powder, soda and salt. Stir in zucchini and nuts.

Pour batter into 2 greased bread pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Cool.

Yield: 2 loaves

Looking for a recipe? Have a food question? Lorie Hutson would like to hear from you. Write to Cook’s Notebook, Features Department, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210, or e-mail to As many letters as possible will be answered in this column; sorry, no individual replies.