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For my birthday one year in college, my friend Christine got me a George Foreman grill. It was the most sophisticated piece of cooking equipment I'd ever owned. It goes without saying that I didn't do a lot of cooking.
Back then, I was a little terrified of my kitchen. I owned one cookbook, and it was called, "Help! My apartment has a kitchen." I wanted to prepare my own meals, but I didn't know where to start, and the idea of cooking overwhelmed me. Growing up, my devoted mother whipped up amazing Korean meals daily, magically. But I was a bratty child and never hung around the kitchen long enough to figure out how it all came together.
Eager to break the George Foreman in, I bought some chicken breasts. I read the instructions carefully — once, twice. I plugged the thing in. I warmed up some buns in the bun warmer. Then I ripped open the breasts, all limp and slimy. Now what? Was I supposed to rinse them in water before I went any further? Throw them directly on the grill? Season them? What did that even mean?
The sight and texture of the raw chicken so revolted me that I essentially abandoned the whole cooking operation. For the next few years.
Then I moved to New London, and a bowl of pasta and some pasta sauce from a jar just didn't cut it anymore. I loved to eat, and I wanted to feel nourished, not just full. I wanted to make the stuff those crazy people on the Food Network were making.
Cooking was not something that came naturally to me, but I have come to love it. I'm now one of those people who salivate over Le Creuset cookware and gawk at food porn and scour the Internet for copycat recipes of restaurant dishes.
If I can do it, so can you. That's what this column is about. I remember how confusing some recipes were because they glazed over the seemingly obvious. (What is browned butter and what aisle do I get it in?) I'll do my best to explain the little things Martha Stewart would scold you for not knowing.
I didn't grow up with a grandma who passed down cherished family recipes to me. I had to figure it out on my own. My history of cooking is first-generation. The recipes I've tried since I started fiddling around the kitchen are all recipes I've accumulated on my own, with no compass needle pointing back to old family traditions or legacies.
It makes me a little sad. But tackling cooking all on my own has also been tremendously liberating. I try whatever catches my eye. I can eschew traditional holiday meals in favor of whatever I'm craving at that moment. I can disregard rules that bind others. I take shortcuts wherever it makes sense to me. I owe no one anything!
So, in that vein, I offer you the humble but delectable glazed lemon bread from one of my go-to food blogs, www.simplyrecipes.com. There was a time when I didn't really appreciate citrus in my baked goods, but taste buds evolve with age, and in a good way.
Sticky, sweet, bright, with a delicate crumb that makes this bread seem much, much harder to bake than it actually is. I thought the glaze would be a little over the top, but I was wrong. Without it, this bread is nothing. I loved the moist, glaze-drenched edges the best. You want that glaze to soak into as much of the bread as possible, so don't skip that last step that calls for stabbing the bread all over with a toothpick, or you'll be sorry.
Is it the right time of year to eat lemon bread? Who cares? Try it because it's delicious.
Glazed Lemon Bread
Slightly adapted from www.simplyrecipes.com
For the bread:
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened (leave it out for an hour or so before getting started)
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 eggs at room temperature (simplyrecipes says eggs rise better this way)
1 tablespoon lemon zest (the white part of the rind is bitter, so zest just the thin yellow outer layer)
½ cup whole milk (you can substitute almond milk)
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups flour
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
For the glaze:
¼ cup lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan.
Combine the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder in a bowl. (Simplyrecipes calls for sifting the ingredients, but I find sifting tedious and don't feel it affects the final product all that much, so I usually skip that step.) Set aside.
Use a mixer to beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar and honey. Continue to beat until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition.
Drizzle milk in as you continue to beat. Add the lemon zest.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Beat until smooth.
Pour batter into the loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour.
About 15 minutes before the bread is done, combine the lemon juice, sugar and honey in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
When the bread is done, poke a bunch of holes in the bread with a toothpick or thin skewer. Pour glaze over the bread while the bread is still hot. This will help the bread soak in all the glaze-y goodness. Let the bread cool before removing from pan.
Jenna Cho blogs about food on theday.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.