For my birthday, Jordan gave me the Baked cookbook that the peanut butter cookies came from. I was with the kids at the park, she called and asked where I was, and drove her beautiful self up to the park to give it to me. She was nervous I might have it already since I lusted after it publicly, but no. I didn't have it, I love it, and it was the last in a string of very thoughtful gifts Jordan has given me over the years.
Can I just get it over with already and sing Jordan's praises? Many of you know her and will likely shout "Amen!" while reading this. Jordan is one of the most resilient, thoughtful, honest, creative, loving people I know. I could put more adjectives in there but its bad writing. Her gift-giving is just one example. She carries around all the time, in her mind and heart, the passions, likes and dislikes of all the people she loves. Consequently, she's always got a storehouse of gifts waiting to be given. In January, she'll say, "I can't wait till your birthday in June. I found the perfect thing." The gifts aren't extravagant--they're just perfect. The recipients inevitably feel completely known and loved. And that's how I feel around her all the time.
She's had a really hard year--harder and more complicated than I could ever describe. In the midst and in spite of that, the beautiful things about her have come into stark relief. In suffering, I've observed that people usually become MORE of who they are. If they were bitter beforehand, they become even more bitter. In Jordan's case, she's become even more of the generous, observant, and sensitive person she already was (there--I worked in more adjectives). For me and others in her circle, we have watched with amazement.
So I've been eager to spend some serious time with my cookbook. I want to bake every single thing in it. I'm not one of those people that loves the process of baking. You know--the measure-once-cut-twice gal that I am. Baking has a lot more variables than a good plate of pasta. But I'm a good baker, and extremely motivated by the end product. Yancey thinks it's a funny (and endearing, right honey?) quality of mine. When we go fishing every summer, I'm ho-hum about the meditative practice of fishing on a pristine lake. But I'm gung-ho about fresh trout with lemon and garlic.
I chose this lemon loaf as my first Baked endeavor because Jordan and her mom made something similar for book club one night, and it was divine. As was this. Get out your loaf pans--you won't be sorry.
P.S. Due to the popularity of this cookbook, this may be one of the recipes circulating in the blogosphere. I really have no idea. If it is, now you have one more reason to make it. And you let me talk your ear off about Jordan.
Lemon Lemon Loaf
From the cookbook Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. The only thing changes reflected here are doubling the lemon juice in the cake from 1/4 c. to 1/2 c and making 1 c. of the syrup instead of 2/3 c. That's something I learned from Mom--namely, the smarty-pants that write cookbooks never put enough lemon in lemon baked goods. My cakes did turn out considerably flatter than the photo, though, so maybe I'm paying the price? I don't know. The other thing I learned from my Mom was always to distrust cookbook photos and not get too attached to them. Taste is what matters. This recipe makes two loaves. Of course you can halve it. I sent one to the fire station (surprise!) and kept the other one for us. Wyatt's FAVORITE thing in the world is lemon baked goods. Isn't that cute? He inhaled this last night.
1 1/2 c. cake flour
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 ts. baking powder
1/4 ts. baking soda
1 ts. salt
2 1/4 c. sugar
8 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 c. grated lemon zest (from about 4 lemons)
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 c. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 c. sour cream, at room temperature
2 ts. vanilla
For lemon syrup:
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. sugar
For lemon glaze (optional--I did it)
2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
4-6 Tb. fresh lemon juice
Make the cakes
Preheat oven to 350. Butter the sides and bottoms of two 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper (or cut out from paper bags) and butter the paper.
Mix dry ingredients together in a medium bow.
Put the sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a food processor and pulse until combined. With the motor running, drizzle the butter in through the feed tube. Add the sour cream and vanilla and pulse until combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
Sprinkle in the flour mixture, one third at a time, folding gently after each addition until just combined. Do not overmix.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, rotate the pans, reduce the oven temp to 325, and bake for another 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the lemon syrup
In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and invert the loaves onto the pan. Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops and sides of the loaves.
Brush the tops and sides of the loaves with the lemon syrup. Let the syrup soak into the cake and brush again. Let the cakes cool completely, at least 30 minutes.
If you like, make the lemon glaze
In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and 4 Tb. of the lemon juice. The mixture should be thick but pourable. If the mixture is too stiff, add up to another 2 Tb. of the lemon juice and whisk again, adding small amounts of lemon juice and/or powdered sugar until you get the right consistency. Pour the lemon glaze over the top of each loaf and let it drip down the sides. Let the glaze harde, about 15 minutes, before serving.
The glazes loaves will keep for up to 3 days, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, at room temperature.