Remember how incredibly proud I was of my little lemon tree, which produced more fruit than ever this year? Well, I got quite the reality check when my neighbor knocked on my door a couple of weeks ago with a HUGE bucket full of lemons, inquiring if I would like some of those lemons and that she had plenty more where those came from. Her bucket surely put my little tree to shame. However, I didn't waste any time to answer yes and was "convinced" to take some lemons off her hands. I kept thinking of all the sweet dishes, savory dishes and lemonades I could possibly make with this abundance of citrus. Faced with the extremely hard task of what to use my bounty on first, I began searching the internet for lemon desserts. No sooner had I started looking than when I found this great looking and sounding recipe for a lemon poppy seed loaf. I have loved the combination of those two for a long time and have made Dorie Greenspan's Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins countless times since I first featured them on my blog.
This recipe comes courtesy of Joyofbaking.com. This bread uses a slightly different method than what I have been used to. Instead of creaming the butter and sugar until light in color and fluffy before adding the eggs, this recipe goes about it in a reversed way. All the dry ingredients are mixed together before adding all of the softened butter and half of the egg/milk mixture. The premise behind this method is that it will reduce some of the gluten formation and with that produce a wonderful quick bread that is almost velvety in texture. What also sets this bread apart is a simple glaze of fresh lemon juice and sugar which is cooked until syrupy, and then brushed over the freshly baked loaf that has been poked with a wooden skewer. By doing so the lemon flavor will penetrate throughout this already wonderful bread and you will get full on, mouth-puckering lemon flavor without adding any artificial lemon extract and as an added benefit it will make this bread even more moist and tender. Each and every bite is loaded with a citrus explosion.
This recipe makes one loaf. Mine turned out a bit short since my loaf pan is slightly bigger then what the recipe calls for, but that certainly did not affect the taste one bit. The first time I made this bread, it was gone in the blink of an eye (I'm talking less then 12 hours). I've baked several of these loaves since, giving some to neighbors (especially my lemon bearing friend), friends, colleagues, high school kids and teachers. As soon as I bake one of them, it pretty much disappears and it is safe to assume that this recipe has been an absolute hit with everyone who has been on the receiving end. I'm even going as far as saying that this recipe has replaced my previous favorite, which happened to be Dorie's lemon poppy seed muffins. I'm pretty sad since my lemon abundance has come to an end and I will have to wait almost a whole year before being able to reap the benefits of the lemon trees in my neighbors backyard again. So Tahnya, if you are reading this, I'll be more than happy to take some more off your hands next year. Deal?
3 large eggs 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 1/4 cup (60 ml) milk 1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (outer yellow skin of the lemon) 3 tablespoons (30 grams) poppy seeds 13 tablespoons (184 grams) unsalted butter, softened
For the lemon syrup:
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated white sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a loaf pan (8 x 4 x 2 1/2 inch). Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter and flour the paper.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and milk. Set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and poppy seeds until combined. Add the softened butter and half the egg mixture and mix on low speed until moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat for about one minute. (This aerated and develops the cake's structure). Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating about 30 seconds after each addition. (This will strengthen the structure of the batter).
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. You may have to cover the bread with buttered foil after about 30 minutes if you find the bread over-browning.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the sugar and lemon juice to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. When the bread is done, remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Pierce the hot loaf all over with a wooden skewer or toothpick and then brush the top of the loaf with about half the hot lemon syrup. Cool the loaf in the pan for about 10 minutes then invert onto a greased wire rack. Brush the remaining syrup onto the bottom and the sides of the loaf. Re-invert the bread so it is right side up and then cool the bread completely before wrapping. Store for a few hours before serving to allow the lemon syrup to distribute throughout the loaf.