FOOD & DRINK | By Ilona Saari
Christmas Lemon Tea Bread & Vi
When Vi (“Mom” to me – “Auntie Vi” to almost everyone else) left her cozy home in the Connecticut “boonies” to move to California and closer to her kids (Bob, me and our spouses), she had two choices: Los Angeles or Sacramento. She liked Los Angeles (somewhat), but palm trees just weren’t her ‘thing.’ Sacramento was more of a fit – more “east coast.” She loved the Capitol building and the parks with more variety of trees than any other city except Paris. She loved that the city had a ‘winter’ (sort of) and that the leaves turned beautiful colors. And she loved the fact that she could live nicely there on her fixed income. So she left her beloved New England where she grew up and where she had moved back to after years in New York City. She left the boutiques she ran and the friends she had made, packed up her belongings and headed west.
And though she was hours away from me, she’d come down to LA for two extended visits — summer and winter … Her winter pilgrimage included the Christmas holiday and being a part of our annual Christmas Eve party.
During her first Christmas here, a tradition was started. She loved to cook, so she became Richard’s sous chef as he prepared the dishes for the party… but she alone made the glazed lemon tea breads we’d give out as ‘favors’ to our guests.
T’was one night before Christmas Eve and all through the kitchen Richard and Vi were stirring … and chopping, dicing, mixing and blending and Vi was preparing to make her batch of little lemon breads, when Richard chopped and diced his ‘baby’ finger. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
Never one to overreact, Vi calmly grabbed a clean dish towel and applied it and pressure to Richard’s finger as she and I ‘discussed’ whether I should drive Richard to the ER. I was for it. She didn’t think it was necessary. Richard didn’t know what to do as we had usurped the conversation. He may have had an opinion as his finger bled and throbbed, but he couldn’t get a word in edgewise. As the towel became more colorfully red, I made the decision to ER it. Richard was relieved. As we were leaving, Vi reassured him that she’d seen worse over her many years and that he wouldn’t bleed to death… that he’d be fine and that she’d continue the last minute cooking tasks while he was gone. The party must go on.
By the time we reached the ER, the bleeding had stopped – but to be on the safe side, the doc gave him three stitches so it wouldn’t start again. Richard had a new Christmas memory and a red badge of cooking courage… not to mention, he got to keep the tip of his baby finger.
By the time we arrived back home a couple of hours later, Vi had finished the chopping and dicing and had made three batches (9 little loaves) of her lemon breads. To paraphrase Papa Hemingway: “glaze under pressure.” That’s my Mom.
It’s been a few Christmases w/o Vi, but Richard continues the lemon bread tradition. Join us in that tradition.
GLAZED LEMON BREAD
1/3 cup melted butter
1-1/4 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1-1/2 cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon granted lemon rind (peel)
½ cup chopped nuts (Vi used walnuts)
3 tablespoon lemon juice
Blend well the butter and 1 cup sugar; beat in eggs one at a time. Add almond extract.
Sift together dry ingredients:
add to the egg mixture alternately w/ milk.
Blend just to mix. Fold in peel and nuts.
Turn into greased, oven-proof glass loaf baking dish (8-1/2” x 4-1/2” x 2-3/4” pan). Bake in slow oven (325 degrees) about 55-65 minutes (depending on your oven) or until testing the center w/ a toothpick comes out clean. If you bake bread in a metal loaf pan, use a moderate oven (350 degrees) – 40-50 minutes or until the toothpick test is clean.
Mix lemon juice and ¼ cup sugar; immediately spoon the loaf when you take it out of the oven.
Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a rack. Do NOT cut for 24 hours so that it slices easily. However, Vi used to slice hers as soon as the loaf cooled and it sliced ‘just fine.’
Makes 1 loaf.
If using those cute little loaf pans, these ingredients will make three little loaves and should bake about 40-50 minutes or until they pass the toothpick test.