3.09.2010

Kindred Spirits

One of my favorite things to do is reread favorite books. Unfortunately, it's something I don't do very often, I guess, because the sheer number of books I haven't even read once presses down on me with the weight of missed opportunities to find more favorite books. But, there are a few that I do make time for--one (or, I should say, one series) being Anne of Green Gables. The first time I read Anne I was in the sixth grade, in the car on a family vacation down to Florida. It's about 20 hours from my house in northwest Ohio to Disney World, and I had gotten a number of books for Christmas in anticipation of all the backseat time I'd have coming up just after New Year's. I don't remember exactly how long it took, but I know by the time we were home again, I had finished and was clamoring for the next in the series.

While I loved those books, the attention span of an adolescent and teenager isn't that long, and I didn't actually come back to or reread the series until just a couple years ago.You see, its rare, but sometimes I get burnt out with living in the city. On any given day, I love it, but something inside me resonates with trees and fields and barns and snug houses and quiet, steady people. It's home for me. And, I don't know what inspired me to do it, but I picked up Anne of Green Gables and read it again, drinking in this time the descriptions of the countryside and the sweet conversations of the characters--really thinking out their relationships with each other and their land. L.M. Montgomery's writing sort of filled up that resonating hole that sometimes gets a little too big with missing my home.

So, a couple weeks ago, I bought the new anniversary edition of Anne of Green Gables, since I had loaned out my other copy. And I'm reading it again.

Here's a little excerpt from Anne's House of Dreams (the fifth book in the series) that I love:

"Silence and twilight fell over the garden. Far away the sea was lapping gently and monotonously on the bar. The wind of evening in the poplars sounded like some sad, weird, old rune--some broken dream of old memories. A slender shapely young aspen rose up before them against the fine maize and emerald and paling rose of the western sky, which brought out every leaf and twig in dark, tremulous, elfin loveliness.

"'Isn't that beautiful?' said Owen, pointing to it with the air of a man who puts a certain conversation behind him.

"'It's so beautiful that it hurts me,' said Anne softly. 'Perfect things like that always did hurt me--I remember I called it 'the queer ache' when I was a child. What is the reason that pain like this seems inseparable from perfection? Is it the pain of finality--when we realise that there can be nothing beyond but retrogression?'

"'Perhaps,' said Owen dreamily, 'it is the prisoned infinite in us calling out to its kindred infinite as expressed in that visible perfection.'"

3.02.2010

A Recent Obsession

Tonight I made lemon poppy seed bread. I've always really liked lemon poppy seed, but I guess you could say that lately I've been a little obsessed. So tonight, to stem my cravings, I decided to make some following the recipe below. I found this online, and the author of the recipe gave some really good explanations for why she breaks the steps up as she does:

"This recipe uses a slightly different method to mix the batter. Instead of simply creaming the butter and sugar, then adding the eggs, followed by the flour and milk, this recipe uses what is called the 'one bowl' or 'quick method.' That means the dry ingredients are first put into a mixing bowl, and then room temperature butter, along with a little of the wet ingredients, are added. These ingredients are beaten together and then the remaining wet ingredients are added. The reason for mixing the batter in this way is to reduce the gluten formation in the flour, which produces a quick bread with a moist, dense, and velvety texture. This can only happen if the butter has had the chance to coat the flour before all the wet ingredients are added which can have a toughening effect."

How interesting, right? I never really think about baking/cooking as being science-y, but it totally is! The order that things are mixed in matters in a kind of chemistry-like way. 

Anyways. Here's my bread, still in the bundt pan, because it's my mom's old one and I think its pretty.

And here's the recipe!

Lemon poppy seed bread:
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Lemon syrup:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a loaf pan, bundt pan or muffin tin.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and milk.

Beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and poppy seeds until combined. Add the softened butter and half the egg mixture and mix on low speed until moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat for about one minute. (This aerates and develops the cake's structure.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating about 30 seconds after each addition. (This will strengthen the structure of the batter.)

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. You may have to cover the bread with buttered foil after about 30 minutes if you find the bread over-browning.

When the bread is done, remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. 

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and lemon juice to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Pierce the hot loaf all over with a wooden skewer or toothpick and then brush the top of the loaf with about half the hot lemon syrup. Cool the loaf in the pan for about 10 minutes then invert onto a greased wire rack. Brush the remaining syrup onto the bottom and the sides of the loaf. Re-invert the bread so it is right side up and then cool the bread completely before wrapping. Store at least overnight before serving to allow the lemon syrup to distribute throughout the loaf.

Makes 1 loaf. 

Read more: http://www.joyofbaking.com/breakfast/LemonPoppyseedBread.html#ixzz0h54LMqEK