You need this recipe. You need to print it and put it wherever you keep your pile of “never fail” stand by recipes. Recently, I traveled with my family to the beautiful and quaint town of Fulton, Missouri. My husband went to college there and we returned to visit dear friends Courtney and Doug Mertens. Courtney and Doug are really really good cooks. And, they have a killer stash of cookbooks. Needless to say, I spent a rude and fabulous week staying in their home, snooping through their book nooks, and eating them out of house and home. I am not an ideal house guest.
Moving on, at a certain point Courtney pulled out the Junior League Centennial Cookbook (which I immediately ordered…and which is now in my Amazon Store) and casually whipped up the following Poppy Seed Bread that simply blew my little mind. It is a perfect cake-like treat that is satisfying and has a great texture. The glaze is made of orange juice and granulated sugar and it retains a little crunch that is wonderful. I typed the recipe (and about 10 others to which you will surely be subjected in the near future) into my iPad and the moment I returned home I set about recreating this wonder. It really is that good. The recipe makes two 9 inch loaves, but I decided to make one loaf and a dozen muffins, which my daughter believes to be cupcakes if that gives you a hint of how good they are.
The muffins took 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven. The loaf, which was projected to take an hour to an hour-and-fifteen minutes was thoroughly done (perhaps a bit too done) at an hour, so I suggest you start testing with a tooth pick early. Also, the loaf should probably be glazed in the pan so that it will retain as much of the glaze as possible. I took it out of the pan to cool and then glazed it and was sad with each drop of glaze that was lost to the parchment paper below. You will have to determine the aesthetic you are going for and glaze accordingly. The muffins were a great option. I had plenty for my people and a half a dozen for Linda next door who not only kept my Serranos from dying during my absence but also was kind enough to do a burglar check when our alarm misfired while we were gone. Linda, like Courtney, is a goddess.
One final thought, while I am no food snob, the notion of “butter flavoring” threw me for a loop. It is just kind of yucky sounding. If you want butter flavoring, use butter, right? And the stuff smells like movie popcorn. However, whatever it does in this recipe…however it does what it does…is 100% good, so if the idea of butter flavoring makes you squeamish, get over it. Use the stuff. You will be happy with the results.
3 cups all purpose flour
1½ teaspoon salt
1½ baking powder
1½ cups milk
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2½ cups sugar
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons almond extract (I used 1 teaspoon)
½ teaspoon butter flavoring
½ teaspoon butter flavoring
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup orange juice (I used enough frozen concentrate and water to make a quarter cup)
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9-inch loaf pans. You can also do one loaf pan and a dozen standard muffins using muffin liners. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder and set it aside. Beat the eggs in a large bowl and stir in the milk, oil and sugar. Add the poppy seeds, vanilla, almond extract, and butter flavoring. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the pans and bake for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes for the loaves, or about 25 minutes for the muffins. If you do muffins, don’t forget about the pancake pen which makes liner filling a very clean and efficient process. Remove the pans to a rack to cool.
Note: A sharp eye will notice in the photos that I forgot to add the sugar to the wet ingredients until the very end when I had already added the flavorings and the poppy seeds. I don’t recommend that order, but it didn’t affect the outcome one bit. With a pacing Hoover of a dog at my feet and kids begging for spatulas to lick, and dryer buzzers going off it is no wonder I do this sort of thing (are you seeing a Calgon commercial in your mind?). It is good to know that there are recipes out there that can withstand a few errors. Speaking of which, I held back on the almond extract because my bottle was sooooo old that I feared that it would be too potent. You need not hold back.
Once the bread has cooled, mix together the glaze ingredients. If you have muffins, dip the tops into the glaze. I went through the process twice so they were double glazed. Pour the remaining glaze over the loaf.
The loaves we were eating at the Mertens’ stayed fresh and delicious for several days. This recipe has holding power, so it is great for guests, or taking to the lake…or whatever…you get the idea. It is a great recipe.
Oh, one more thing, apparently poppy seeds go rancid relatively quickly so if you buy a nice new jar for this, you might want to store it in the fridge. My friend, Donna Mason, gave me another great poppy seed recipe that I am working on (involving blue cheese…big surprise)and hopefully I will get that out to you soon so you have something else to do with your poppy seeds.
Thank you, Courtney!