Lemon and Poppyseed Bread

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Ben’s out of town in Scotland this week, so I’ve been left to my own devices. Normally I would just veg out on the sofa and enjoy being the sole controller of the remote. But this week I felt like being productive! Doing things! Checking things off my list! Which then all boiled down to baking again this week. I mean, it’s still a bit predictable, but certainly better than TV watching.

Since I was baking in the evening after work, I needed something relatively quick and simple. When perusing through some of the Pins I’d saved on Pinterest, I was immediately drawn to this recipe from Jaclyn at Cooking Classy: Lemon Poppy Seed Bread. My mouth literally began to water. And although my wedding diet certainly doesn’t allow for cake (especially after a few days of cheating over the weekend – grrrr!) I do know that I love lemon and poppyseed together, combined with poppies being on the brain from our volunteering at the Tower of London over the weekend, and the fact that it’s bread week on GBBO: I was sold.

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I will say, bread is a bit of a misnomer for this bake, as it’s not really a bread at all. It’s actually a loaf-shaped cake, but it’s denser like bread, so it slices beautifully. So it’s a sweet, cake-like loaf of bread. It’s all semantics anyways.

Ingredients

For the bread/cake:

  • 1 2/3 cup flour
  • 2 Tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
For the glaze:
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (approx 175°C). Grease a loaf pan and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine your flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, and salt. Mix them together well so that everything’s evenly distributed, then set aside.

3. In the bowl of your mixer, rub together the sugar and lemon zest until your sugar starts to turn a nice, pale yellow. (By the way, don’t try and work with fresh lemon juice and lemon zest with cuts on your fingers. It stings. A lot.) Add in your softened butter and vanilla, then turn your mixer on and blend together until everything turns nice and fluffy. Once fluffy, add in your eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between each egg.

4. In a pyrex jug, mix together the milk and sour cream. Then gently heat it in the microwave for a few seconds until they are just slightly warm. Make sure it’s all blended together well!

5. Now, using the “muffin method” – add in your flour mixture and your milk mixture. Alternate adding each mix by adding 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by half of the milk mixture, followed by 1 Tablespoon of your fresh lemon juice, mixing until they are just barely combined, then repeating until you’ve used everything up.  Make sure you finish with adding the final 1/3 of the flour mixture. (So – flour, milk, lemon, flour, milk, lemon, flour – got it?)

6. Pour your batter into your prepared loaf tin and pop it in the oven for 40 minutes. After that time, cover the top with foil (not letting it touch the loaf) and let it bake for another 5-10 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

7. Once it’s finished, take your loaf out to cool in the pan for 5 minutes (ONLY 5 MINUTES!), then turn it out onto a wire rack. Then prepare your lemon glaze by microwaving the sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl for short bursts at a time. Whisk frequently to make sure you don’t burn the sugar. Once everything’s dissolved, you’re ready!

8. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the glaze over the top of your loaf. It makes it incredibly moist, as it soaks into the loaf. Plus, it’s all pretty and shiny just after you glaze it. Take your time with this step, as you want to use ALL of the glaze. Let it soak in, then reapply gradually through several coats.

lemonpoppyseed02Once it’s ready, you can slice up your loafcake and serve it up. Just make sure to store it in an airtight container. I took mine into work the next day, so once it was completely cooled and the glaze was set, I popped it back into the tin to make for a nice presentation (and to make sure it didn’t get crushed during rush hour on the Tube!).

Well, I’m off to Edinburgh for the weekend to meet up with Ben after his week away. I will see you next week to share our adventures, bakers!

 

 

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Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake

 

Cherry Cake | pajamabaker.com

You know how every Christmas there’s that song that plays touting December as the most wonderful time of the year? As much as I love Christmas, every summer about this time that song starts creeping into my head. Not because I’m anticipating the steadily approaching holidays, but because one of my favorite TV shows returns: The Great British Bake Off.  This year, for Series 5, they’ve actually moved the show to BBC One, which means a lot more exposure, and a lot more excitement!

In the first year I started this blog, I challenged myself to try one bake from each of the episodes in order to grow my skills and try my hand at some of the challenges in hopes of auditioning for GBBO.  It worked well then, (I got as far as the audition round) so I figured I’d give it another shot. Plus, it’s more motivation to keep baking each weekend (as if planning an international wedding wasn’t enough to keep me busy! Only 61 days to go!).

The first episode of the show focused on cakes, a relatively simple category, but it really allowed us to focus on meeting the new bakers this year. There are a few that I think have amazing talent, but one of them drives me absolutely up the wall! He is the most obnoxious person I could imagine meeting. I’m hoping he gets kicked off soon! Fingers crossed! The technical challenge for the episode was to make Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake, an almond-flavoured sponge with bits of cherries distributed throughout the cake.

The trick to putting the cherries in is to chop them into smaller pieces, then rinse, dry, and coat with flour. This helps the cherries “float” in the batter so that they don’t all sink to the bottom of the tin (eventually the top of your cake). This cake was super easy to make, although it didn’t rise as much as I would have expected, so I may double the recipe next time so that it makes more of a statement on the plate!

Cherry Cake | pajamabaker.com

Now before you start wondering about the crooked-looking cake, it’s actually my new cake stand, which was given to me as a bridal shower gift by one of my bridesmaids, Kelsie. It’s absolutely beautiful and I love that it has that quirky, not exactly perfect appearance. It just adds to the handmade nature of what’s being presented on it. After getting this stand, I found out they do it in two other sizes and heights, so I’m definitely adding those to my wishlist!

Cherry Cake | pajamabaker.com

 

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 200 grams glacé cherries (or maraschino cherries if you’re in the States)
  • 225 grams self-raising flour (minus 2 Tablespoons, which you’ll use for the cherries)
  • 175 grams butter, softened
  • 175 grams sugar
  • the finely grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 50 grams ground almonds
  • 3 large eggs
For the icing:
  • 175 grams icing sugar
  • the juice from one lemon
  • 15 grams flaked almonds, toasted
  • 5 glacé cherries, cut into quarters (you can take these from the 200 grams used for the cake)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (approx 175°C). Grease a bundt pan and set aside.

2. Cut all of your cherries into quarters, then rinse them under cold water so they aren’t sticky and turn them out onto some paper towels to dry. Make sure you set aside 5 of your cherries for the topping. Toss the rest of the cherries in your 2 Tablespoons of flour so that they’re evenly coated.

3. In your mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add in your eggs one at a time. Once mixed, add in your flour and ground almonds and mix in thoroughly. Remove your bowl from your mixer and fold in your flour-coated cherries and lemon zest by hand.

4. Pour your batter into you greased pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until your cake tester comes out clean and the top is a lovely golden color. Let your cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

5. To make your icing, gradually add the lemon juice to your icing sugar so that it makes a thick paste. Carefully drip the icing over the top of the cake using a spoon. You want the icing to run down the sides a bit, but not completely coat the cake, so you’ll need it to be pretty thick.

6. Finally, top your cake with the toasted flaked almonds and your cherry bits.

That’s it! Easy peasy! (And Ben says it’s delicious!)

Cherry Cake | pajamabaker.com

Sweet Tea and Lemonade Cake

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It has been incredibly warm this summer in London. And when you live in a house built in the 1930s that doesn’t have any air conditioning, it makes things heat up pretty quickly. It also makes icing cakes really difficult (as you can see from my terribly runny cake in the picture). But as hot as it gets outside and on the Tube, my office is an absolute icebox and I’m constantly cold – meaning I’m constantly wearing jackets and cardigans. While the Brits might give me awkward looks, it’s still pretty comfortable.

Growing up in Virginia, the summers easily got to be well over 90 or 100 degrees for days on end. Add the humidity to that, and you’re pretty much melting. The plus side? I’ve got a pretty high tolerance for summer heat. So I can get away with wearing a couple light layers while the rest of England starts stripping off as much as decently possible.

As promised, I’ve gotten into baking again, but the interesting bit is that I’m also on a very strict diet pre-wedding (skinny bride! skinny bride!) – so I can’t actually eat any of it. Thank goodness for work colleagues and a fiancé with a seemingly bottomless stomach!

This week’s bake comes from the latest issue of Southern Living magazine, and despite the melty frosting, it went down really well and was pretty simple!  Their recipe called to do it in a single-layer 13 x 9-inch pan, but I did mine in two 8-inch square pans and I think it just helped make it a bit more of a treat, but I’ve put the timings for both!

 

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • shortening (for greasing the pans)
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water (about 1/4 litre)
  • 6 standard (or 3 family-size) teabags (I used English Breakfast)
  • 1 cup (226 grams) butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (85 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups (550 grams) flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
For the frosting:
  • 1 (8-oz) package of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup (57.5 grams) butter, softened
  • 6 cups (about 500 grams) icing sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (approx 175°C). Grease and flour your pans.

2. Pour your boiling water over the tea bags in a large glass bowl (or Pyrex jug) and let them steep for 10 minutes. After that time, remove the tea bags, squeezing the liquid out, and let the brewed tea cool for at least 20 minutes.

3. In your mixer, cream the butter and slowly add in the sugar until everything gets light and fluffy. Add your eggs 1 at a time, beating until just blended after each addition.

4. In a large bowl, mix together your flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Alternate adding this mixture to your butter mixture with 1 cup of the cooled tea, making sure to begin and end with the flour mixture. Discard the remaining 1/2 cup of tea. Pour batter into your prepared pans, if using more than one pan, make sure you get them even!

5. If using a 13 x 9, bake for 35-40 minutes. If using 2 8-inch pans, I baked mine for 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Either way, your cake is done when your cake tester comes out clean and springs back a bit when you lightly touch it. If doing a layerd cake, remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. If doing the 13 x 9, let the cake cool completely in the pan.

6. To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese in your mixer until it starts to become creamy. Gradually add in your icing sugar, beating at low speed to help reduce giant messy sugar clouds. I find covering the mixer with a damp tea towel helps reduce it a bit. Once all your icing sugar is in, beat in the lemon zest and juice – then crank your mixer up to high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.

To decorate my cake, I used really thin lemon slices. However, they tended to leak some juice out – so you may want to set these out on a paper towel to dry out a bit so that there isn’t as much juice.

Lemon Griestorte

 

Today has been a very long day. Ben left to go to a conference in Poland until Wednesday, so he was out the door before 6 a.m. to catch his flight. Unfortunately for me, I’m one of those people that once I’m awake, I’m awake. So I’ve pretty much been awake since about 5 a.m.  When I decided to actually roll out of bed 2 hours later, I was greeted by the most enormous spider I have ever seen!!!

I am absolutely terrified of spiders, so I found myself frozen in the doorway, facing off against this creature who was preventing me from entering my bathroom.   Normally Ben comes to my rescue (as he did last night when he went after another giant spider that had crawled under our bed), but he’d left hours ago and I was left to fend for myself. So what else could I do but start throwing shoes at it? It was the most logical solution.  Four tosses later, and the sucker was squished under one of Ben’s boat shoes, which is where he will stay until someone braver (i.e. Mr Moxey) comes home to dispose of the evidence.

I have no idea where all these spiders are coming from all of a sudden, but hopefully that will be the last one until at least Wednesday.

Anyways, back to business. This week on the Bake Off, the challengers made flourless cakes, or tortes. Originally I had planned to make a chocolate one, but I’m afraid that chocolate is the absolute last ingredient I want to have in the house at the moment. I spent all of Thursday touring around London visiting chocolate shops, gelaterias, and patisseries for a project at work and ended up getting really sick Thursday night and felt like crap most of Friday from eating so much rich, dark chocolate. So yeah, taking a break from that.

So to find a recipe for Plan B, I went to the Bake Off authority herself, miss Merry Berry. This recipe is from her Baking Bible, and uses whipped cream and lemon curd to make a delectable filling.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 3 large eggs, separated (you’ll need both the whites and yolks!)
  • 100 grams sugar
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 50 grams fine semolina
  • 15 grams ground almonds
For the filling:
  • 300 ml whipping cream
  • 8 Tablespoons lemon curd
  • fresh raspberries
  • icing sugar

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (approx 175°C). Grease a deep round cake tin and line both the bottom and sides with baking paper. (I don’t have a deep tin, so I used 2 8-inch tins and halved the baking time. The layers were really thin, but it worked out alright.)

2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until they are pale and have a light texture. Add the lemon juice and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens. Fold in the lemon zest, followed by the semolina and ground almonds.

3. In a separate bowl (preferably with an electric mixer), whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then fold into the egg yolk mixture until it’s evenly blended. Gently pour into your prepared baking tin.

4. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until it turns a pale golden brown (I did mine for 13 minutes in the two tins). Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing and placing on a cooling rack to peel off the baking paper and cool completely. When cool, cut the cake in half horizontally.

5. Whisk the cream until it thickens and holds its shape, then fold in the lemon curd until it’s evenly blended. Spread half of this onto the bottom layer of your cake, then place a few raspberries around the cake. Add the second layer, then top with the rest of the whipped cream mixture.

6. Add a ring of fresh raspberries around the top, then dust with icing sugar to finish it off.

Lemon Angel Food Cake

 

Last week was rough. There’s simply no other way to put it. My grandfather passed away on Thursday after falling and breaking his hip a few days earlier. As sad as it is, he lived for 91 amazing years and he’d been in poor health for the last few, so it’s good to know that he’s no longer suffering.

When it came to baking this weekend, I wanted something simple. I was so tired and I just didn’t want have to really think about what I was doing. So the first thing I thought of was angel food cake, it’s basically three ingredients (egg whites, flour, and sugar) plus some flavoring. To be honest, it took longer to bake than it did to whip up the batter.

I adapted this recipe from Mother Thyme, as I didn’t have any cake flour. The key is to make sure you whip all of the egg whites into stiff peaks, and then not overmix it when you add the flour. Mixing too much at that stage would get rid of all the air whipped into the egg whites and result in a flat, dense cake.

 

Ingredients

For the batter:

  • 10 egg whites, room temperature
  • 16 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
For glaze:
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • lemon zest

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (approx 175°C). Grease a ring or bundt pan, making sure you get into all of the crevices as well as coating the center tube. Your cake needs to have the center tube to cook evenly as well as maintain its height.

2. First, sift together the flour and corn starch several times to ensure that they’re evenly mixed together. Set the mixture aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, lemon extract, cream of tartar, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest until the mixture reaches stiff peaks. This should take about 5 minutes on a medium-high speed.

4. Reduce the speed on your mixture and gradually add in the sugar until it just comes together. Be sure not to overmix!

5. Using a spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture – sprinkle a bit of the mixture over the top, fold in, then repeat until everything is just combined.

6. Pour the batter into your prepared bundt tin, making sure that you keep the batter even around all sides. Gently shake the pan to even it out if necessary.

7. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top just starts to turn golden and the cake springs back a bit when you touch it. Let it cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

8. To make the glaze, mix together all of the ingredients. You can add in the lemon zest if you’d like, or save it to garnish the top like I did. Once everything is combined, pour over the cooled cake and serve.