A basic muffin recipe and a quick bread recipe are usually interchangeable as far as the ingredients go. When converting from one to another, the main variables that require a little tweaking are cooking time and temperature. This means that you can covert a favorite quick bread recipe to muffins that will bake in a fraction of the time. Or your treasured muffin recipe can become a loaf with just a couple of minor tweaks.
Converting a Loaf Recipe Into Muffins
Converting a quick bread like banana bread from a loaf into muffins requires a couple of major tweaks: a higher oven temperature and a much shorter cook time.
If you take a quick look at a few muffin recipes, you'll notice most recipes cook at temperatures between 375 F and 425 F. If your quick bread recipe bakes at 350 F for 60 minutes, try baking at 375 F for 30 minutes or even 400 F for 20 minutes. Since you don't have an exact cook time, use the toothpick test starting at 15 minutes and keep a close eye on the muffins. Once the muffins start looking golden brown on top, you should definitely check them with a toothpick. If they aren't quite done, test them again every 5 minutes until the toothpick comes out clean and then remove them from the oven to cool.
Converting From Muffins to a Loaf
The same adjustments (but opposite) will need to be made if you're converting a muffin recipe to a loaf. Muffins take a lot less time to cook and can handle higher temperatures without getting dried out.
Check the temperature of your muffin recipe. If it calls for 375 F, you will want to lower the heat to 350 F. If it calls for 400 F, try lowering it to 375 F.
The cook time will likely double or more, with a standard size loaf pan of quick bread taking at least 45 minutes to cook. The cook time will depend on factors like whether the batter includes wet ingredients like blueberries, how accurate your oven temperature is, and the type of pan you're using. The key here is to test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the loaf. When it comes out with no wet batter attached, it is done.
The Quickness in Quick Bread
Compared to yeast bread, quick bread is really quick. That is because quick breads are made with baking powder and/or baking soda, fast-acting chemical leavening agents that produce carbonated gas when combined with liquid, causing the batter to bubble up and rise. Once you combine the liquid and dry ingredients, you want to get the batter into the pan and in the oven relatively fast, or else the gas will expend itself before the heat of the oven has a chance to set the glutens in the flour.
A loaf is a far less "quick" form of quick bread because loaves take longer to bake. On the other hand, filling 12 muffin cups is considerably more tedious than simply pouring all the batter into a single pan.
Although it sounds like you need to worry about rushing, think about pancake batter for a minute. The secret to making pancakes (a runnier quick bread) is letting the batter rest for 15 to 20 minutes before cooking. That's because you do not want to mix the batter until every last lump is gone because doing so will overwork the glutens and make your pancakes rubbery. Resting the batter allows the lumps of dry flour to dissolve on their own.
Overmixing is also the bane of muffins and quick bread. And when you consider that spooning batter into muffin cups requires dragging a spoon through the batter, which is no different than stirring it, you can understand why it is so important to use the fewest possible strokes when you mix the ingredients.
What about losing the expendable gases as time drags on? Store-bought baking powder is almost always "double acting," which means that it releases an initial burst of gas when it is combined with liquid and then a second burst that is triggered by heat. So, while it is true that a certain amount of carbonated gas will be expended when the wet and dry ingredients come together, resting the batter does not affect the second burst of gas that happens in the oven.
Filling Your Pans
There is a fine art to filling muffin and loaf pans. The key: Grease the pan well and fill the muffin cup or loaf pan about 3/4 of the way full. Don't overfill, since it will take your treats too long to bake and some batter might spill over the edge, making a mess in your oven. Save yourself some time and elbow grease by using paper muffin liners. You can also line your loaf pan with parchment paper for easy removal.