I was flipping through my recipe binders a while back. Yes...binders...many of them. It's where I keep all the articles I've ripped from magazine pages, newspapers or printed from websites. I have to admit, the binders have reached an out-of-control, point-of-no-return state. I peruse what has become their massive content, wanting to thin them out, but I can't seem to discard anything. I always say, "I'll give this one a try"....someday.
I came across the Lemon Verbena-Walnut Loaf Cake tucked deep in the dessert binder's pocket pages. However, judging by the the big red circle around another recipe's title on the same page, it seems this loaf cake was never on my radar. Funny how our tastes change.
But it was the words "Lemon Verbena" that sold me this time. The name itself evoking the scents of summer and visions of sitting on a lawn, reading in the shade, warm breezes blowing the pages of my book. Of course, Lemon Verbena is growing close by with its long, glossy leaves, wafting its sun-baked lemon-like scents through the air. Can you tell I'm sun-deprived here in the Pacific Northwest?
So I thought I could just run to the store, grab some of this tea and get on with my baking. But, living in the middle of a "beautiful nowhere" doesn't always mean you'll find what you want at the market.
Apparently it has been decided at some "super-secret grocery store managers meeting" that we don't need Lemon Verbena tea at our fingertips. Not one grocery store (five stores) in my town carried this flavor. I was shocked (well, not really) and bummed. I had no choice but to order this Lemon Verbena tea online. I'm glad I did.
Unbeknownst to me, the recipe, had clearly indicated to substitute Lemon Zinger tea (found everywhere) for Lemon Verbena if hard to find. This would have saved me lots of time (and money), but honestly, I was after something else.
Working as a winemaker and having studied flavor chemistry and the nuances of wine, I am always chasing a "hint of something". I knew the Lemon Verbena tea would have a special effect on this recipe. I was betting on its well-known, ethereal-citruslike aroma, unmatched for its very suave and sweet intoxicating scent. A complex aroma, a middle note, something woodsy and greener to pair with the walnuts. Walnuts, that are often tannic...just like tea. Are you still with me?
Yes, I know this "aroma talk" is all super-nerdy, but this is what I do, what I seek, what I look for in my cooking and especially in my winemaking. On a tangent, just the other day I found a note of cinnamon in my still barreled down 2011 Pinot Noir. I was so happy to find it and welcome what it brings to the vintage. The changing aromas, reminding me constantly that wine is alive, dynamic and constantly evolving. Just like in wine, be open to the subtle scents while cooking and enjoy what they bring to the table. It's the little things that make something special.
Even my oldest son, who kind of complains when I have nuts in baked goods, loved-loved this. There's something about it..it's just different. And fabulous, perfect for morning tea.
Lemon Verbena-Walnut Loaf Cake
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 4 lemon verbena tea bags
- 2 cups (9 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 large egg whites
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup applesauce
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- cooking spray
For the glaze:
- 1-1/4 cup powdered sugar
- zest of one lemon
- 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 8 x 4-inch loaf pan
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Prepare cake by pouring 1/2 cup boiling water over tea bags in a bowl; steep 5 minutes. Remove and throw away tea bags and cool tea to room temperature.
- Spoon the flour into measuring cup very lightly (I always weigh my flour), leveling with a knife. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir well.
- Place egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat well. Add tea, applesauce and oil and beat until well blended. Slowly add flour and beat until moist. Fold in walnuts and pour the batter into 8 x 4 loaf pan that has been coated with cooking spray. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes in pan before flipping out onto a wire rack. Cool completely.
- For the glaze, combine sugar, lemon zest and juice, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over cake.
If you have the chance this summer, plant Lemon Verbena in your garden. Use the leaves to make Lemon Verbena butter, drizzling it over delicate white fish. Or make a Lemon Verbena simple syrup for the base of your lemonade. Infuse it in milk and make ice cream. It's really a great flavor to have around.
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