If you couldn’t tell from this blog, B2 and I are about the unfanciest people in the world. Most of the time, being a lawyer is just as unfancy (and for me generally consists of (a) sitting at a desk, (b) clicking things on a screen, and (c) wondering what on earth I’m doing). But every once in a blue moon, our firms decide to celebrate something or other in which we have a very small part, and invite us to a fancy place we’d probably never otherwise go. So this is how I got to tag along with B2 to a nice dinner last year when one of his firm’s cases settled, where we sat at the kiddie end of the table and talked to the other junior associates about the most pressing legal issues of the day (i.e. the best time of day to find free snacks in the break room) while eating pretty and delicious food.
Even though I loved everything about dinner, the beautifully-plated this-and-thats, my favorite part was actually afterwards, when they (to my surprise) placed little sunshine-y lemon poppy seed muffins in front of us to take home. I don’t know what it says about me that a cutely-wrapped baked good in a patterned tulip liner all for me can win me over quicker than anything else, but it was pretty much how I imagine the perfect, classic lemon poppy seed — a fine, closed crumb, rich but not too buttery, sweet and lively with a gentle crunch from the poppy seeds. According to the server, it was for “breakfast the next day,” which I interpreted as “second dessert right now,” and I ended up at home with about seven more stuffed into my purse from anyone who didn’t want theirs. (Maybe I enjoyed it so visibly that everyone around me figured it was going to a better cause.)
So that happened a whole nine or ten months ago, and ever since I had the last of my seven muffins I’ve been waiting for citrus season to roll around so that I could try to make them in my own kitchen. Umpteen recipe tests later, this little loaf is what resulted. I was hoping the most for that silky, dense crumb from the muffins I hoarded, and happily got it from Greek yogurt for moisture and a combination of butter and oil, which, after this test way back when, I’ve generally loved for a cake that is substantial but not heavy or dry. There’s lemon zest rubbed into the sugar plus lemon juice in the batter for a bright but not too tart flavor, and, just because I’ve been waiting to revisit chamomile and lemon together, the loaf is brushed with chamomile syrup for a slight floral twist. You can make it as a single loaf or as muffins, with Meyer lemons or regular, but any of those ways, I think it’s a perfect dose of sweet citrus sunshine for these dreary January days.
I hope you’re all having wonderful Wednesdays and staying warm and cozy!
This post is in collaboration with Whole Foods Market. You can find the 365 unsalted butter and soy milk I used here or any other 365 Everyday Value product at Whole Foods for 10% off this weekend, from January 15 to January 17. Thank you to Whole Foods for sponsoring this post!
makes one small 8x4 loaf (I used this tin) or about 12 muffins.
- 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp poppy seeds
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup (4 tbsp, 2 oz, or 57 g) Greek yogurt (or other yogurts; see Notes)
- 1 tbsp milk, any kind (I love this 365 Everyday Value Soy Milk; you can also sneak in more chamomile tea here)
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp lemon zest (from about 2-3 lemons; Meyer lemons would be wonderful if you can find them, but any kind will work)
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 oz, or 67 g) 365 Everyday Value Unsalted Butter, softened
- 2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- for the chamomile syrup:
- 1/4 cup strong chamomile tea (see Notes)
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x4-inch loaf tin or a 12-well muffin tin with parchment paper. If you haven’t already, brew a half-cup of very strong chamomile tea (see Notes below for the proportions I used) and set aside.
- Whisk together flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a Pyrex measuring cup or a small bowl, combine yogurt and milk and whisk until smooth. For a stronger chamomile flavor, use a tablespoon of the tea instead of milk.
- In a large bowl, combine the sugar and lemon zest. Using your fingers, rub the lemon zest into the sugar until fragrant, about a minute or so. (This helps release the flavor more fully.) Add the softened butter and oil, and beat with an electric beater or plenty of arm strength until the mixture is pale and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until incorporated. Finally, add the lemon juice, and whisk again until combined.
- Add a third of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and fold until just combined. Next, add half of the yogurt mixture and gently fold again. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the remaining yogurt mixture, folding gently until just combined after each addition. Finally, add the remaining third of the dry ingredients and -- you guessed it -- fold gently until just combined.
- Pour the batter into the loaf tin or muffin tin, filling about 3/4 full. For the loaf tin, bake for 40-45 minutes, or until cake is golden-brown, bounces back when touched, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For the muffins, bake 15-18 minutes, or until domed, bounces back when touched, and a toothpick comes out clean. The muffins should be paler when fully-baked, just gently golden on the edges.
- Meanwhile, bring the chamomile tea and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Let simmer for about a minute, until the liquid thickens just slightly, then remove from heat and let cool.
- When the cake is done, let cool for 10 minutes before removing from the loaf pan. Brush the chamomile syrup over the loaf (you can poke holes in the top to let the syrup soak in more fully, if you like). And enjoy! Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature; the cake will be just as good the next day and will keep for several.
For a "strong chamomile tea," I found 1 tablespoon loose leaf chamomile or 1 tea bag for 4 oz boiling water made for a brew that was strong enough to infuse the cake with a good, subtle flavor, but you could go with more or less tea leaves depending on your preference, and you can even chill the tea overnight (unstrained) for a stronger flavor. You can also substitute the milk for an extra tablespoon of tea, if you like -- I have made it both ways, and both work wonderfully.
Feel free to substitute other yogurts of your choice -- if your yogurt is a bit runnier than classic Greek yogurt, you may want to omit the tablespoon of milk and use 5 tablespoons of yogurt, instead.