Sunshine on a plate. That’s what I think of when I make this lemon yogurt quick bread. And, boy, is it ever needed right now as large parts of the northeastern part of the United States are being walloped by a huge winter snow storm.
Fortunately, here in the D.C. area, the snow fall was limited to a few inches, just enough to close some schools but certainly not enough to raise the specter of being trapped in my neighborhood for days. I made the loaf I photographed for this post yesterday, and my kids have been munching on it all morning. They think of it as a type of cake. I think of the whole grains and calcium they’re getting being delivered in a less sugary package.
It’s based on a recipe I saw a couple of years ago in an issue of Bon Appétit except that I’ve made my usual substitution of whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose, and I’ve specified heart healthy olive oil for the vegetable oil called for in the original recipe.
Most importantly, I’ve reduced the amount of sugar by half. Many bakers will tell you not to mess around with the amount of sugar called for in a recipe since, in addition to adding sweetness, sugar keeps baked goods soft and moist. The implication is that reducing the amount of sugar will produce a tougher, drier loaf.
That’s not the case here. While it’s true that sugar is hygroscopic, meaning that it has the ability to attract and hold water molecules (which is what makes a baked good moist), in this case less sugar doesn’t mean less moistness and tenderness. There are several reasons for this result.
To ensure a moist loaf, I’ve increased the amount of liquid in the form of ¼ cup of lemon juice. (The original recipe only called for the zest of a lemon.) I’ve also increased slightly the amount of flour that is available to absorb this extra liquid.
To ensure a tender loaf, I’ve minimized the opportunity for gluten development by using whole wheat pastry flour rather than white whole wheat flour. Both are whole grain flours that provide the fiber and other nutrients that have been stripped out of all-purpose and cake flours, but whole wheat pastry flour is made from a type of wheat that has less protein, and thus less gluten, than the wheat used to produce other whole wheat flours. In addition, the acids in the lemon juice and yogurt perform the same tenderizing function that sugar typically performs.
Finally, like all quick breads that I make, the final step is to gently mix the wet and dry ingredients together just until the two are blended and there are no pockets of dry ingredients. This will leave you with a lumpy batter but one that will ensure the least amount of gluten development.
The end result is a pale yellow loaf that has the same lemony flavor as Starbucks’ lemon pound cake at a fraction of its calories and without its overwhelming sweetness. (My version has only about 182 calories and 3.75 teaspoons of sugar per slice, while Starbucks’ lemon pound cake clocks in at 470 calories and 10.5 teaspoons of sugar per slice.)
Definitely sunshine on a plate.
Lemon Yogurt Quick Bread
1¾ cups (225 grams) whole wheat pastry flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
zest of one lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
juice of one lemon (about ¼ cup)
2 large eggs
½ cup granulated sugar
1 7-oz container of plain Greek yogurt*
½ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a medium size bowl whisk the dry ingredients (whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, salt) together with the lemon zest until the zest is evenly incorporated throughout the mixture.
3. Beat the eggs in another medium size bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice, yogurt and sugar until smooth. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes to let the sugar dissolve. Add the olive oil and almond extract, whisking again until the mixture is smooth.
4. Quickly pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and slowly and gently stir to combine. I use a large spatula that I scrape along the inner curve of the bowl turning the batter that collects on it into the center of the bowl. Stir until the ingredients are combined and there are no large pockets of dry ingredients. The mixture will be lumpy. Be careful not to overmix.
5. Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top a bit if it appears too lumpy. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 – 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit on the counter to cool. After about 10 minutes, remove the loaf from the pan and place it on a wire rack to finish cooling (about 30 minutes).
*Be sure to use plain 2% or whole-fat Greek yogurt. For example, don’t be tempted to use regular vanilla yogurt. Regular yogurt will be too watery, and flavored yogurts (including those flavored with vanilla) all have added sugar.
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