I don’t know about you, but lemons are one of my very favorite foods/flavors.  I love how very versatile they are, bringing brightness to heavy savory dishes, and a wonderful pucker to sweets.  The modest lemon brings a lot to the party, and this week’s recipe is a perfect example.  I’ve always been a fan of lemon-poppy-seed bread.  It’s sweet and tart and creamy and has a fun little crunch from the poppy seeds.  Those seeds, by the way, aren’t just there for a nutty-flavored good time… they even bring the gift of nutritional value.

Here’s what you’ll need (for one 8×4-inch loaf):

For Bread:

1 2/3 c. all-purpose flour

2 T. poppy seeds

1 t. baking powder

1/8 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1 c. granulated sugar

2 T. lemon zest (from about 3 lemons)

1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 t. vanilla extract

1/4 c. + 2 T. sour cream

1/4 c. milk

2 T. fresh lemon juice

For Glaze:

1/4 c. granulated sugar

3 T. fresh lemon juice

(This is pretty simple but you want to follow a few steps carefully, basically so the lemon juice doesn’t curdle the milk.)

First, preheat the oven to 350 and butter and flour (or spray with baking spray) an 8×4 baking dish.  Then, whisk together the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Next, put the sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and mix on low until the sugar is moist and light yellow (a few minutes).  If you don’t have a mixer with a paddle, you can rub the sugar and zest between your fingers to get the same result.

Then, add the soft butter to the sugar/lemon mix and beat on high until lighter in color and almost “fluffy” (about 5 minutes).

While that’s mixing, measure out the milk and sour cream into a glass measuring-cup and microwave for 15 second intervals, just go get the chill off.  (You could also leave them at on the counter with your butter for 20-30 minutes beforehand, if you have the time.)

Here’s where you want to be deliberate: starting with the flour mixture first, add 1/3 of it to the butter/sugar and mix until just combined, then 1/3 of the milk/sour cream mix, then an egg, then 1 T. of lemon juice, mixing to combine after each addition.  Repeat that process until all of the ingredients are combined, adding the vanilla with the last egg.

Spread the batter evenly into your prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, tenting it with foil (being careful that the foil doesn’t touch the loaf) after 40 minutes.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean or with only a few tiny crumbs.

Remove from the oven and let cool slightly while you prepare the glaze.  Mix the sugar and lemon juice in a small microwaveable glass (or do this in a small pan on the stove) and heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Brush over the top of the loaf, waiting a couple of minutes between coats for it to soak in, but use it all.  Slice and serve immediately or store in an airtight container.

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