Friday, April 30, 2010

lemon poppy seed pound cake: just like in my dreams

It finally feels like spring is upon us. After a day of surprise weather (read: random snow), it is now bright and sunny. Even though it’s still a bit windy, the city is starting to feel alive. It’s amazing how every single year, the first few warm days feel like they are the first warm days EVER. As in, us Montrealers have never experienced sun and warmth before. Yet, even though our summers can be ridiculously hot, we’re still ecstatic every year about having picnics on the mountain or sitting on terraces, drinking a cold beer or a pitcher of sangria. Aaaah, bliss.
This time of the year just makes me so happy. I can’t wait for backyard barbecues and days of lounging out in the sun with good company. Spring and summer also make me think of fresh fruit, tangy citrus and light and crumbly cakes. Lemon is probably one of my favorite types of fruit in desserts. It’s so refreshing and the taste is so strong and definitive. And the best part is that it can go into so many different types of desserts. Lemon mousse, lemon meringue pie, lemon muffins, cupcakes, cakes, cheesecakes, ice cream, cookies….(oh god, gotta wipe off the drool).
Oh and lemon with poppy seeds? Simply amazing. And this pound cake it just that. Simple, yet amazing. This pound cake isn’t too heavy like others because of the lightless of the lemon flavour. Even just its scent puts a smile on my face. However, I wanted to add a little something else so I put some white chocolate chips, but I’m not really sure what happened because I could barely taste it. Perhaps regular chocolate chips would have given a more pronounced taste. Nonetheless, this cake satisfies my lemony needs!
Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
Yields two 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
5 large eggs
2 ½ cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tbsp poppy seeds (optional)
2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
½ tsp pure lemon extract (or vanilla extract if you don’t have lemon)
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ cup plain yogurt or sour cream
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup white chocolate chips or whatever else you wish - optional
Preheat oven to 350oF. Grease and flour two 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaves or line with parchment paper. (I greased them with cooking spray and put a piece of parchment with overhangs to make it easier to remove the cakes). In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds.
In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar with the paddle until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest, extract and yogurt and beat until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the oil and lemon juice. Finally, add the prepared flour mixture and beat until just combined (as in, you don’t see anymore flour – about 10 seconds). Do not overmix otherwise the gluten will develop. If you want to add chocolate chips or something else of the kind, now’s the time to do it.
Divide batter evenly between the loaf pans, smooth the tops with an offset spatula and bake, rotating half-way through, 50-55 minutes until the cakes are golden, spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack about 5 minutes, then turn cakes out onto the rack to cool completely.
You can also glaze the cakes with lemon juice (or easier with lemonade) and icing sugar (mix about ½ cup lemonade and ¼ cup icing, adjust to your taste and drizzle over cakes).
Keep at room temperature in a cake dome about 3-4 days. They can also be frozen after being well wrapped in plastic film.

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