I am on a mission. A few days ago, I stocked up on bags of fresh lemons, pounds of sweet butter, and a few dozen eggs. I am going to bake lemon loaves for my neighbours this Christmas. It's not something I do regularly, hardly at all. I might make muffins and take a few to a neighbour, but not often. But this year, I wanted to give a little something to more than just my two next door neighbours on either side of us.
As a writer, I am generally ensconced at my desk inside my house -- where I sit right now looking out my window over the pre-dawn navy skies. It's not that I don't care about my neighbours, it's that I get caught up in my world of words, and days can go by and I haven't seen much of anybody. I might catch sight of someone when I'm out for my walk or as I drive by on my way to do errands. We might smile and wave at each other, but for the most part, I don't even know their names. Rick knows them more than I do, as people often stop and chat when he's working in the front garden in the summertime.
But this year, what with all the disasters and terrible things that have been going on in our upside-down world, and for the most part there being nothing I can really do to help heal the world at large, I have had a heart longing, a tug to reach out and touch a few souls closer to home. Not for my sake or because I'm lonely, but because I want these people with whom I share this neighbourhood to know that someone does notices that they live on this street even if she doesn't do much more than offer a wave and a smile. For I am glad they do live on this street, even if I don't know their names. It's a nice, peaceful neighbourhood, and we know it's the people who live in it that make it so. I don't have to know them personally to recognize that.
But wouldn't it also be nice to know them personally, to know their names and the names of their kids and kitties. And, that's when the idea to bake lemon loaves for these nearby residents came to mind. Christmas is often a time when people can do things like this and not feel so weird about turning up out of the blue. So I dug out my recipe, lined up my ingredients, greased and floured the pans, and set to work. As soon as I got three loaves baked and cooled, I wrapped them up, carefully put them in a carry all bag, and started off down the street. People were surprised to answer the door and see me, a virtual stranger, standing on their doorstep with a cellophane, ribbon-wrapped loaf and Christmas card in my hand.
The task is not yet complete. I've delivered six loaves so far and I'm off shortly to start baking another batch for today's deliveries. I might get on such a roll that I'll go all the way up and down my street ... well, maybe not this year anymore. One thing for sure, I'm calling on the neighbours -- I have no idea who they are -- who have the orange kitty, a friendly puss, who comes to visit us often during the summer. We've watched from which house she saunters, so we know that at least. I'll probably say, "Hello my name is Brenda and I live at #27. Your beautiful orange kitty often comes to visit us and so we wanted to give her family this package as a thank you for her friendly face in the neighbourhood."
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The kitchen smells so wonderful these days. Not the usual spicy smells of Christmas, but rather that aroma of zesty, buttery goodness that tantalizes my nose. It's a recipe I've had for decades now -- after this week it will be properly tested and tried -- and I am happy to share it with you today.
Glazed Lemon Loaf
Makes one large loaf, two smaller loaves, or one bundt pan cake
Preheat oven to 350F
Grease and flour the baking pan(s) called into service
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon essence
zest from 1 large lemon (or two small)
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk
Cream butter until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar. Add eggs one at a time.
Stir in vanilla, lemon essence, and lemon zest.
Mix flour and baking powder in a separate bowl.
Add these dry ingredients alternately with milk to the wet ingredients.
Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan(s)
For one large loaf, bake for 55 minutes, until golden
and tester comes out clean from the center.
For two smaller loaves, bake for 45 minutes.
For bundt pan cake, bake 45 - 55 minutes.
Let cool 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto wire rack.
Drizzle or brush with lemon glaze while loaf is still warm.
3 tsp lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1/2 cup icing sugar or castor sugar (finely ground sugar)
Mix ingredients into a slightly runny paste.
* * *
"Eat a slice with tea and enjoy without guilt."
* * *
"Cakes have gotten a bad rap. People equate virtue with turning down dessert. There is always one person at the table who holds up her hand when I serve the cake. No, really, I couldn’t, she says, and then gives her flat stomach a conspiratorial little pat. Everyone who is pressing a fork into that first tender layer looks at the person who declined the plate, and they all think, That person is better than I am. That person has discipline. But that isn’t a person with discipline, that is a person who has completely lost touch with joy.
A slice of cake never made anybody fat. You don’t eat the whole cake. You don’t eat a cake every day of your life. You take the cake when it is offered because the cake is delicious. You have a slice of cake and what it reminds you of is someplace that’s safe, uncomplicated, without stress. A cake is a party, a birthday, a wedding. A cake is what’s served on the happiest days of your life.”
~ Jeanne Ray, Eat Cake
I think this Jeanne Ray is a smart lady with her very sensible thoughts on eating cake. I shall remember her fine words when we have a slice of lemon loaf later on.
* * *
And so I'm off to bake. It's a beautiful, mild day in the neighbourhood.
I wish you a wonderful day whatever you're up to today.
PS. I forgot to say that I'm guest posting at InScribe
today -- a short piece called Longing At Christmas.
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