Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Anne Bramley's Meyer Lemon Tea Bread with Northwest Flour

When my Internet connection was suddenly severed last Thusday, I was startled and wondered if I could exist in a non-connected world. But this break in my usual Internet activity led to delicious freshly baked breads, biscuits, pie crusts and cookies--all made with Northwest Washington flour, grown and processed less than 100 miles away.

After Banana Bread, Anne Bramley's Meyer Lemon Tea Bread was my second experiment with Nash's Soft Winter Wheat Flour.

I handed Tom a slice of the sweet loaf and watched him take a bite.

“It doesn’t taste any different to me,” he grumbled, when I grilled him about the flavor of Nash’s flour.

“Really? No different at all?” Why couldn’t he taste the subtle sweetness and the distinct caramelized texture of the grain? I was dismayed by his answer because I was certain that the flour had a sweet flavor and was so much better than bread made with stale ground flour from bulk bins at the natural foods store. It was so good I was giving away to baking friends to try.

My new local flour infatuation partly sprang from a Washington Tilth-sponsored farm walk I attended at Nash Huber’s farm in 2008. Eighty-five of us gathered near Nash’s packing shed early in the morning to learn about grain and seed production on Nash’s farm. We walked to test plots of wheat behind the shed and listened while Nash talked about growing and processing grain on his farm. He said he'd always used grain-based cover crops to build soil fertility on his farm, and now he was growing wheat for market with plans to grind it into flour and sell it to market shoppers. I felt like I had a front row seat to the first wheat crop in this century grown on the west side of the Cascades.

Soft Wheat Flour is new at the market this year. Just seeing it on Nash's table, took me back to that sunny day listening to Nash in his wheat field, watching the grains wave gently in the breeze.

Mom's Banana Bread was my first choice for baking, but I was certain that lemons would highlight the wheat flavor. And I was so excited about the prospect of using local wheat in another recipe, I woke up thinking about Meyer Lemon Tea Bread. At the gym, I told my friend Molly about this flour and my baking plans and she was so intrigued, she wanted to try the flour in her favorite muffin recipe.

I took a few cups of flour to Molly’s house, then went home to bake Anne Bramley’s Meyer Lemon Tea Bread.

Unless you’ve got your own lemon tree, Meyer lemons aren’t local, but this is their season, and PCC Markets had some great organic ones, which you need because the zest (outer peel) is also used in this recipe.

Then gather the remaining ingredients. Use as many local options as possible. Instead of buttermilk, you can get local milk and add a bit of vinegar or lemon juice stirred in to curdle it. I didn’t have milk so I used soymilk with a little vinegar added. Here is Anne’s recipe with Northwest options:

Meyer Lemon Tea Bread
2 cups Nash’s Organic Soft Winter Wheat
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup freshly squeezed Meyer Lemon Juice (4 to 5 lemons)
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup Golden Glen Creamery butter, melted
1 cup sugar
Zest of 2 Meyer lemons
1 large egg (Caity’s fresh eggs from the market)

1. Preheat oven to 350ยบ. Butter a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and buttermilk.

3. In an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest. Beat in the egg. Add half of the lemon juice mixture, then half of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining lemon juice and then the remaining flour mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Place loaf in the oven. [Let your kitchen assistant take care of the mixing bowl.]

4. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center. Cool 10 minutes before removing from the pan. [This is important because the cake is a bit dense and it might fall apart if you take it out earlier.] This bread can be made 1 day ahead.

The sweet slightly crispy caramelized edges surpassed my expectations. Even with the Meyer lemons, dominating the stage, I could still taste the flavor of this sweet flour carrying the loaf to perfection.

The only part I didn’t care for was the moment Finn stole my slice of bread. Despite their low slung bodies, Basset hounds can reach many things on kitchen counters. And when my back was turned for just a moment, Finn had the audacity to wolf down the slice before I’d even turned around. When I noticed the bread was missing Finn was gleefully licking the floor. Finn’s idea of slow food is if he’s too slow, he misses out.

Just remember to keep your muffins away from hungry puppies. As for me, I’m already wondering which recipe to try next.


Kathy said...

Your kitchen assistant, Finn, has some quick moves in the kitchen. I love the picture of Finn licking the mixing bowl. Fun!

Oh, and the bread looks yummy!

http://foodconnections.blogspot.com said...

The bread was delicious; it's a recipe worth repeating.