My favorite part of this time of year is watching how excited my husband gets. Spring is a farmer's Christmas in some ways. Lots of boxes arrive at our door full of seeds and various goodies. Talk of purchasing last minute tools and equipment peppers every conversation. There is a renewed sense of hope and the promise of a fresh start, a clean slate, a growing season better than the last.
During the winter months I felt like I went through all the stages of grief because of the relentlessly dry summer last year. In November when we scaled back to one farmers' market and my kitchen was bustling with Thanksgiving pie-making, I was in total denial about the cycle repeating itself. Summer 2017 seemed like light-years away. How could I possibly think about a repeat when I hadn't even settled into winter yet?
In December I was so filled with the Christmas spirit and with profound joy over our first anniversary that I actually felt anger when it was over. I felt robbed - like I hadn't had nearly enough time to enjoy what I had waited the whole year to celebrate.
In January, I felt panic. Winter was moving forward...was there any way to distract it? I begged, "Please, Winter, please, stop it with the spring-like days! Can't you just relax and let the snow fly for a while?"
February was utter ruin. Our kitchen was in shambles, seed orders began to arrive and I wanted to cry. Winter was leaving me and he didn't even leave a snow drift for me to remember him by.
And now here we are: March. I suddenly feel this strange sense of acceptance creeping into my psyche. I feel calmer. Does that mean I'm rested? Let's hope! Because soon we will transplant our little seedlings into the open fields. Soon I will open every single window in the house and not feel a chill. The rain will feel warm and we will begin again.
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
Makes 1, 9 x 5" loaf
Adapted from Candace Nelson
For the cake
2 cups pastry flour (7 1/2, 212 g)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (3 1/2 oz, 100 g)
1 cup sugar (100 g)
3 large eggs
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (8 oz, 227 g)
1 tbsp lemon zest (from 3 small or 2 large lemons)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp poppy seeds
For the glaze
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
Preheat a conventional oven to 350 F and position a rack in the center of it. Grease a 9 x 5" loaf pan and set aside.
Sift together the pastry flour, baking powder and salt. Combine the vegetable oil and sugar in the bowl a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat for about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the yogurt, lemon zest, vanilla extract and poppy seeds and beat for another minute. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until the batter is well combined.
Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes - 1 hour, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, let it cool for 20 minutes then carefully tip the cake out of the pan and let it finish cooling on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, juice all of the lemons you zested into a small measuring cup. You should have about 1/3 cup of juice. Add the juice and 1/3 cup sugar to a small saucepan. Over medium low heat, let the sugar dissolve into the juice. Let the syrup cool.
When the cake is barely warm, poke little holes all over it with a cake tester or a toothpick. Using a pastry brush, coat the cake with some of the cooled lemon syrup. Let it soak in before applying more. Continue this process until all of the syrup has been applied to the cake. Let the cake cool and soak in all the syrup before you cut and serve it. This cake is delicious the first day and outstanding the next day. Keep it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.