Monday, February 25, 2008

A Letter (and a Lemon Recipe)

To Whom It May Concern,

Over the past few weeks, I've become increasingly engrossed in food blogs. So many are maintained by individuals who start out as "Oh baking is just a hobby of mine, I've been tinkering in the kitchen since I was little" and end up publishing books and appearing on food television shows and opening their own bakeries. To those people, I send my heartiest congratulations, tinged only slightly with a wistful jealousy. Your talent astounds me.

If you are looking for a place to find new and creative recipes, this is probably not the best place to look. When it comes to the kitchen, I am a pilgrim, not a priestess. This is a place where I can chart my findings and occasional achievements from a life overwhelmed by the everyday -- a 9-to-6 job, rent, bills, and all the other symptoms of an as yet unsettled existence. And by unsettled, I don't mean unfulfilled. Just unsettled.

Opening a bakery of my very own is one of my many dreams. It's high on the list, up there with learning to scoop, level, and add the exact right amount of spice to a bowl of dry ingredients using only my telepathic powers. For now though, I am aspiring mainly to create sweets (and occasionally more substantial meals) for others to enjoy. And by "others," I mean myself -- and then everybody else. So please, read, experiment, and take heart in the fact that you are not the only "______ by Day, Baker By Night" who yearns for recipes that can be executed in between all the Necessary Acts of the rest of your life.

Oh, and I apologize for the quality of pictures. It is my hope that someday I will look back at these and think, "Ugh, well every butterfly has to be a pupa at some point."

And so, on with the recipes!

Last week, some generous individual brought an entire suitcase full of "Fresh California Lemons" into the shared kitchen area of the office. I took this as a sign that I should venture into the realm of lemon recipes, and made lemon squares. And just when I thought I would never again be so lucky, another suitcase appeared late this afternoon! So today's project was Lemon Poppy Seed Bread, selected with care from This has been my favorite baking recipe resource lately, though I will also be including recipes I've collected and compiled in a black ring-bound sketchbook in future entries.

Find the link to the recipe here.

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

Notes: If you lack an electric mixer, this can be tricky. Normally, I ignore it when recipes call for an electric mixer because I can usually get the same effect with a wooden spoon and substantial effort (though baking experts will undoubtedly disagree). However, Stephanie Jaworski notes the importance of aerating the dough to have a successful cake. I nearly broke my own little hand mixer trying to get through the thick dough – it smelled of burning plastic for a good 10 minutes afterwards. Also, pay close attention to baking time. I had my loaf in the oven for barely 55 minutes, and it looked as though it would have burned if I had left it baking for 30 seconds more. I would suggest initially checking it at 30 minutes to gauge the speed of browning (see the recipe), then again at 50 minutes for completion, and then again at 55.

In short: If you lack an electric mixing implement, take care to mix well with your wooden spoon or (should they exist anywhere) your industrial-strength whisk. And don’t overbake.


jason said...

Great entry for some great food.

No, seriously, if you're reading this: try her baked goods

Molly said...

This is great!
Lucky Jason who gets to sample everything... :)

Shannon said...

The loaf looks beautiful! I made a lemon poppy seed cake once - big fan. I hate the lemon zesting part though... any recommendations for optimal zest collection?
P.S. you rock :-)