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Recipe Stash Busting: Fruit and Sunflower Loaf (or “If You’re Wanting to Teach a Chemistry Lesson in Your Oven”)

For this week’s stash busting effort, I decided to weed out a few of my quick bread recipes. I’ve mentioned that I have favorite “categories” of recipes that I tend to stash more than others. Quick breads and muffins are definitely one of those. But rarely do I feel like washing out the muffin tin or the loaf pan afterwards, so rarely do I get around to testing them out.

I found two promising contenders in my stash, one was a hearty oat bread, the other a sunny loaf made with orange zest and dried fruit. I put them both to the test. The results? A chemistry experiment in my oven.

I first mixed up the loaf with the zest and fruit. I noted the two teaspoons of baking soda in the recipe, which I found odd because most cakes/breads/muffins will call for baking powder or at least a combination of soda and powder. And it seemed like a lot of leavening. But I put it in anyway.

About 10 minutes into baking, I smelled something burning. Then I heard the tell-tale “Psshhhh…psshhhhh…psshhhhh…” coming from the oven and I knew I had a baking disaster on my hands. The smoke detectors went off before I could get to the oven. I opened the door and a cloud of smoke came rolling out. When it had cleared, I saw this:

So what went wrong? Grab your pencils, kids. Here is today’s lesson in Baking Chemistry 101. Baking soda, when combined with an acidic ingredient and liquid, results in bubbles of carbon dioxide. These bubbles are helpful in making baked goods rise and will typically result in light, airy breads, muffins, and cakes. The acid ingredient could be vinegar (I have a fruitcake recipe with this combo) or lemon juice (I have a carrot cake recipe with this one). But when I looked at my bread recipe, I couldn’t figure out what was causing the reaction. As it turns out, honey is an acid (thanks, Google!)

So the use of baking soda in the recipe was starting to look intentional. But why the heck didn’t my loaf pan contain the mixture? To be completely fair, the original recipe calls for 4 mini loaf pans and I used my trusty 10×4″ pan. Even though I’ve used this substitution in dozens (hundreds?) of recipes before, the pan size is the only thing that I can think of that may have caused my lovely quick bread to erupt like Vesuvius in the oven (even though the recipe stated that you could use a different pan size with no trouble).

Back in the kitchen, I slipped a baking sheet underneath the loaf pan so that any further drippings could be easily removed, and then tossed the magazine page with the recipe into the trash with irritation. But when I pulled the bread out of the oven, even though it was (literally) a hot mess, it smelled delicious. With a little bit of work I got it out of the pan and managed to cut a few slices. Everyone oohed and aahed over it. They loved it. I pulled the recipe out of the trash can.

The next day, I made the hearty oat bread, which apparently just could not compare with the bright flavors in the volcano bread. Everyone preferred the one that had left a mess in the oven. Enough to justify cleaning the oven? Well, I’ll try out a different pan next time, maybe tweak the baking soda a bit. But it’s definitely worth another shot.

Even though I had a disaster in my oven, I’m still recommending this recipe. Because the flavors are darn good. And if you do end up with a dripping loaf pan, gather the kids around the oven and give them a chemistry lesson on the wonders of baking soda.


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Fruit and Sunflower Loaf

Slightly adapted for personal preference. <br> <br>Be warned! I made this is a 12×4″ loaf pan and it overflowed all over the oven. But the flavor of what was left in the pan was so great that I’m willing to try it again, either in the mini pans, or in a 9×5″? A three-star recipe with five-star potential if I can just work out the pan size!

Source: Cooking Light 2005 (adapted)

Course: Treats (Breads and Muffins)

Yield: 4 small or 1 large



  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 14 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 12 cup butter melted and cooled + extra for greasing
  • 12 cup maple syrup
  • 12 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped dried mixed fruit
  • 12 cup sunflower seed kernels
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange rind


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease loaf pan with butter.
  2. Combine flour and the next 3 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon salt) in a large bowl. Combine butter, yogurt, syrup, honey, and vanilla. Add yogurt mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in fruit, sunflower seeds, and rind.
  3. Spoon batter into 4 (6-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire rack.

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