Sunday, March 22, 2015

Luscious Lemon Loaf

If you've ever tasted the Starbucks Lemon Pound Cake, you KNOW that it is dense, moist and intensely lemony in flavour! For some reason, the Lemon Pound Cake isn't available in Canadian locations. We are offered the lowly lemon poppy seed loaf instead!

So, since it isn't available here, I set out to recreate my own version. A Google search, will net thousands of hits and numerous copycat recipe versions.

I've tried several of the recipes over the last couple of years. A couple used cake mixes as a base but most were from scratch. Several were somewhat moist and dense but barely tasted of lemon. Even though most called for 1/4 to 1/3 cup of lemon juice and the zest, it just didn't translate into the finished loaf. To my taste buds, NONE even came close to the real intensity of the lemon flavour that I had enjoyed when I tried the real thing!

I started comparing recipe ingredients and experimenting with quantities and additional sources of lemon flavour. Besides the basic source of a lemon - zest and juice, I also tried varying amounts of lemon extract and instant lemon pudding mix. Finding just the right level of instant lemon pudding mix without the whole loaf falling took several attempts! Admittedly, I had some failures - mostly in the loaf not rising or the loaf falling during/after baking! There was even one that looked like the Grand Canyon in the middle! Oh well, at least all were edible and a step closer to figuring out a better lemon loaf!

After more than 18 months of experiments, I FINALLY landed on a combination that was moist, dense and intensely lemon! The combination of lemon flavour comes from the zest and juice of a large fresh lemon, lemon extract and instant lemon pudding mix. This may sound like a LOT of lemon BUT it isn't overpowering in the finished loaf - just divinely intense! It also included a bit of sour cream for moisture and denseness in the finished product.

There were two other secrets in creating the perfect lemon flavour.
I) Rubbing the zest into the sugar with your fingertips releases the oils into the sugar and intensifies the flavour!
2) As tempting as it will be, Wait a day to eat this after you make it! Once the icing is set, wrap and store it in the fridge for several hours or preferably overnight! This will allow the flavours to blend even more and the flavour will intensify greatly!

Several of my friends are lemon lovers and have been more than willing to be taste testers for my experiments! The recipe I'm sharing today got RAVE reviews from all those who tasted it! Several even said they preferred MINE to Starbucks! I've made this particular version at least 5 times now and it disappears very quickly!

So, here it is! I hope you like this as much as my friends and I do! 

Luscious Lemon Loaf
Lemon Loaf
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tablespoon lemon instant pudding powder*
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large lemon or 2 medium lemons (you'll need 2 Tablespoons zest and 1/3 cup juice so pick a large heavier lemon or use 2 medium and store any extra zest/juice for another purpose!)
1 cup white sugar
3 large eggs (at room temp)
2 Tablespoons butter/block margarine, softened
2 Tablespoons light sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 cup canola oil

Lemon Icing
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 - 2 Tablespoons milk (I used 1%).

Cut a piece of parchment paper just wide enough to cover the bottom of a 9x5-inch loaf pan and long enough to reach a little above the top of the pan at both ends. This will make it much easier to remove the loaf after it has baked and cooled. Press the strip of parchment paper along the bottom and up the ends inside of the pan. Spray the parchment lined pan with Pam. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine flour, pudding powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Wash and dry the lemon before zesting. Zest the lemon(s) into a large mixing bowl and set aside. (Note: When I zest a lemon, I go very close to the white pith of the rind.
The pieces of zest are a bit larger because of the zester I use, but also gives more flavour and texture. Also a really smooth skinned lemon will not yield as much zest as ones that are a bit more uneven. I generally get about 2 Tablespoons of zest with this method.) Juice the lemon(s) into a small bowl, removing the seeds. Don't worry if you get some of the lemon pulp in it - just be sure to remove any seeds or outer membrane of the lemon sections. You will need 1/3 cup lemon juice for the recipe so buy a larger heavier lemon, two medium lemons or top of the fresh juice with bottled. But, PLEASE try and use fresh squeezed as it gives a much better flavour!

Add the sugar to the lemon zest in the large mixing bowl. With your fingers, rub the zest and sugar together. This will release oils from the zest that will infuse the sugar with even more lemon flavour. Then add the butter/margarine and combine with an electric mixer till no lumps of butter remain. Add the eggs, sour cream, vanilla and lemon extract to the zest/sugar/butter mixture and mix thoroughly with the mixer - occasionally scraping the bottom and sides with a scraper to ensure all ingredients are mixed in. Add oil and lemon juice, then mix well.

Pour dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and blend until smooth. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl to ensure all ingredients are mixed and no lumps remain.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake in preheated 350F oven for 42-47 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into center of the loaf comes out clean. Do NOT overbake!

Allow the loaf to cool in the pan on a cooling rack at least 30 minutes - carefully remove it from the pan and allow it to finish cooling on the wire rack. Cool completely - at least 1 hour. Then peel off the parchment paper before icing..

To make the lemon icing:  Place the icing sugar in a small bowl. Use a fork to break any lumps of icing sugar. Add the lemon extract and 1 Tablespoon of the milk. Stir to smooth - adding more milk as needed to create a smooth thick paste.

Place the cooled loaf on a sheet of waxed paper before icing (to catch drips and allow for an easier cleanup) Frost the sides and top with the icing. It will be a bit drippy along the sides but that can be smoothed out with a knife or scraper. Let it harden at least 20 - 30 minutes! When the icing has solidly set, wrap in two layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight. This allows the flavours to blend even more and give a much richer lemony flavour to the loaf.
Slice and enjoy! Yes, I know you will want to slice it and eat it as soon as the icing is set (or sooner!) but TRUST ME! The flavour will be even BETTER if you wait those extra hours or till the next day!
*Do not use the cooked pudding/pie version! The lemon instant pudding powder is made by Kraft and available at most grocery stores. If you are wondering what to do with the rest of the package, you can label and save it in a small zipped bag for another loaf or even try this awesome Baked Lemon Cake Donut recipe from MGCC: (I don't have a donut pan, so I made them in mini muffin tins! Each recipe makes about 22 mini muffin "donuts"). You could also sprinkle a bit of the instant pudding mix into a whipped topping to add to a dessert!