Friday, November 9, 2007

Lemon Popppy Seed Bread

Something unusual happened in my kitchen last night as I contemplated what I was going to bake... I realized that I was (almost) out of butter. I had a couple of old ends of butter cut from full sticks from other recipes, and a stick that Chris needed for dinner and that was it. It was a very strange situation to find myself in. Luckily, one of the recipes I was considering anyway only called for 5 tablespoons of butter, which happened to be exactly what I had available to me.

I have been making this recipe for years now. It's one of those standards that I just keep coming back to -- this and the cranberry orange bread from the same book (Beth Hensperger's The Best Quick Breads.) Easy to throw together, tasty the first day, and even better the second day after the flavors have melded and mellowed. I've made this bread so often in fact, that the pages in the book are in pretty rough shape. One day I'll learn how to be nice to my books, but I never seem to remember until after I've dropped a glop of something in the middle of the page.

The recipe is very easy, but it's not a spur of the moment bread either... The recipe says to let the poppy seeds and milk stand for an hour, then it bakes for another hour after everything comes together. I've always let the poppy seeds sit in the milk for the hour, but I'm pretty sure you could skip that step without any problems. She also wants you to mix the lemon zest in with the flour which I never do. I usually add the zest to the liquid ingredients first, although you could also rub the zest into the sugar before creaming it with the butter.


3 tablespoons fresh poppy seeds
1/2 cup milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Grated zest of two lemons
1/4 teaspoon salt

Lemon Syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

In a small bowl, combine the poppy seeds and milk. Let stand for 1 hour to macerate and meld flavors.

Preheat oven to 325. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan or spray it with cooking spray. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, baking powder, lemon zest and salt in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture in three equal portions, alternating with the poppy seeds. Beat just until smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake in the center of the oven until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes. Place the loaf, still in its pan, on a rack to cool.

About 10 minutes before the bread is finished baking, make the lemon syrup: combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small sauce pan. Place over low heat just until sugar dissolves.

Pierce the hot loaf about a dozen times to the bottom with a bamboo skewer or toothpick. Immediately pour the hot lemon syrup over the loaf. Cool for 30 minutes before turning it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let stand at room temp overnight before serving.

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