Lemon poppy seed bread

Lemon poppy seed bread is perfect for afternoon tea or to give as a Christmas gift.

The Pastry Chef's Baking
Lemon poppy seed bread.

When I was in culinary school, James McNair, the cookbook author, came to promote his then-newly released cookbook, Afternoon Delights. He did a baking demonstration and made one of the brownie recipes from his book and afterwards signed copies of his new book for us. I think that's what introduced me to getting my cookbooks signed by the author. It's not something I actively pursue since I have way too many baking books to make that practical but when the opportunity presents itself, I like getting a copy signed by the author and being able to tell him or her if I liked a particular recipe from their book or thank them for doing what they do. Either way, it's a nice memory to have, especially as I use their cookbooks over and over again. Someday, if I can ever get to a cookbook signing by Lisa Yockelson, I'm going to be the biggest groupie around.

This is a nice afternoon tea bread, i.e. if you need something to serve at an afternoon tea or picnic, this makes a good choice. It's tart and lemony, especially with the glaze and has a firm texture so it's not too delicate. I've always liked the lemon and poppyseed combination. The glaze does make it a bit sticky but it adds a great lemon flavor so don't skimp on it. Note that you do have to plan a little ahead and soak the poppyseeds in the buttermilk for at least an hour before you mix up the rest of the ingredients and bake the bread. I broke this up into mini loaf pans so I could give away smaller loaves as part of my Christmas gift giveaways.

Lemon poppy seed bread

1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt (not fat free)
1/4 cup poppy seeds
Solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature, for greasing (I just use nonstick cooking spray)
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons finely grated or minced fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon pure lemon extract

Lemon glaze
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a bowl, combine the buttermilk and poppy seeds and let stand for about 1 hour to soften the seeds.

Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with shortening (or spray with nonstick cooking spray).

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk to mix well and set aside.

In another bowl, combine the butter, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, lemon extract, and buttermilk-poppyseed mixture and mix until well blended. Add the flour mixture, about 1 cup at a time, and mix gently just untol incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

To make the glaze: in a small saucepan, combine the sugar and lemon juice. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside.

When the bread is done, remove the pan to a wire rack. Pierce the top of the bread all over with a toothpick or wooden skewer. Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze all over the top of the bread until absorbed. Set aside to cool completely.

Wrap the bread tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature overnight for better flavor and easier slicing or up to 1 week.

Carol Ramos blogs at The Pastry Chef's Baking.

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