Lemon Lavender Bread

Many years ago, on a trip to London, we stayed in a charming flat in the Chelsea area. It was July and the front path of the building was lined with lavender in full bloom. It was beautiful, smelled lovely, and was so cheerful that when we bought our present home we lined the front path with lavender to imitate that Chelsea flat. It took several years to mature but now it is blooming beautifully alongside pink and apricot roses. We have found several uses for the lavender, one of which is to dry it and keep it in a bowl in the living room. I sprinkle a handful onto the carpet as I am vacuuming and it makes the house smell like a summer day in the middle of winter, but I have rarely baked with it. This past year I decided to use it in my cooking and have developed this lovely, moist lemon lavender bread. I experimented with a dairy-free version using margarine and hemp milk and, while the lemon flavor and texture were nice, the lavender was lost with the hemp milk. When I made it with unsalted butter, steeping the fresh lavender leaves in dairy milk, the lavender flavor came through much better. It is still a subtle flavor and not at all overpowering. If you want a more assertive lavender flavor increase the amount you steep. I also used Fiori di Sicilia, a Sicilian citrus and vanilla essence, to add flavor to the batter. I order it from King Arthur flour. If you cannot access it use a combination of lemon extract or emulsion and vanilla extract. If lavender is not available, this is still a delicious lemon bread. I call this a quick bread, but it can easily be interpreted as a pound cake and would be very nice sliced and topped with some fresh berries and cream.

Lemon Lavender Bread
10 sprigs of fresh lavender
1 c. milk
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 tsp. Fiori di Sicilia essence (or lemon extract mixed with vanilla)
2 large eggs
1-3/4 c. flour (you may need a little less if baking at sea level)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

In a saucepan combine lavender with milk on medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and let steep 30 minutes. Strain to remove lavender. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a loaf pan. Set aside. In a mixer combine butter and sugar, then beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add lemon juice, zest, and Fiori di Sicilia essence. Beat 1 minute. Add eggs one at a time and beat 1 minute. In a separate bowl sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter and sugar mixture alternately with lavender milk, beginning and ending with flour. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes until the bread is golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a spatula around the bread to release it from the pan and invert onto rack. Let cool completely. Makes 1 loaf.

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