independence day

I was alone for the long weekend, all my friends scattered on trips. I had mixed feelings about this - I like time by myself and there are things that I only do with no one around (going to the National Gallery, sitting in front of the Rothko color studies and writing), but I am something of an anxious creature and too much time by myself can lead me astray.

So I made plans to keep myself busy, mostly involving movies (I may have had a Harrison Ford movie mini-marathon) and food. The South Hall of
Eastern Market recently reopened, after a fire damaged the historic building. I had been there once before, on a citywide hide-and-seek, while all the merchants were outside, but I was determined to go back this weekend to see the renovated building. It's a little bit of a trek from where I live, but it was worth it. Not necessarily for the renovated building - it's certainly nice, but also mostly full of meat - but I love the farmer's line and the flea market.


When I was young, after we had moved to Florida, my grandmother would always include baked goods in her packages filled with mostly-practical gifts. I have vague memories of baking with her and my mother when we still lived in New York, in the kitchen of the house that will always be my grandparents', in my mind. The top-secret baking project I mentioned in my last post was at least partially inspired by these memories. Since the project is complete and on its way down to Florida, and by the time my mother reads this (hi, mom!), she will have received it already, I'm writing this all down as another part of her too-early birthday present.

I made these
flourless peanut butter cookies Saturday night, in between sneaking over to my window to watch the fireworks in downtown DC. It was the first time I had ever made cookies completely from scratch, which is silly, considering how utterly, fantastically easy it is. It was so easy (and so delicious) that the next night, after another success that I will detail below, I attempted to make a variation. As it turns out, Nutella does not easily substitute in that recipe. The cookies turned out way too hard and also tasted fairly awful. C'est la vie, as they say. Not all cookies can come out perfectly, and so these were destined for the trash.

My pièce de résistance, however, was straight out of my childhood memories: lemon poppyseed pound cake. The only reason it was possible was because I was catsitting and thus had access to a mixer (thanks, Jo!). As soon as I started the mixer up, the scent of lemon zest and poppy seeds and flour hit me and took me immediately back to my grandmother. Of all the breads she sent, the lemon poppyseed was always my favorite. I'm pretty certain my grandmother used a mix to make her bread (pound cake? I'm not sure at this point), but that did not diminish the smell or the memory. It was the same instant nostalgia I get whenever I smell cigar smoke, a flood of memories of that house on the lake. It seems impossible that my grandparents no longer live there. Luckily there's always pound cake.

Lemon Poppyseed Pound Cake
Adapted from The Cake Bible

Baking connects you to the past in an immediate way, through smell and through muscle memory. This isn't the recipe that my grandmother uses, but baking it still reminds me of her, which is what really counts, at least for me. That, and the joy at seeing the cake successfully rise. And the smell of it baking. Okay, so maybe there are a lot of things I like about baking.

3 tbsp milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (minus 1 1/2 tbsp)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
3 tbsp poppy seeds
13 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

2 1/4 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine milk & eggs in a bowl. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl (I used the bowl for the mixer) and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Then add the butter (it really does need to be soft, trust me) and half of the milk/egg mixture. Mix on low until all the ingredients start to come together, then turn up to medium for a minute. Add half of the remaining milk/egg mixture, mix for 20 seconds, then add the rest and mix for another 20 seconds.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan - or whatever pan you've decided to use! Bake for about 55 minutes; after 30, cover with buttered foil. A few minutes before the cake's done, start making the syrup: mix the lemon juice & sugar in a pan - I did it on low heat, but the original recommends medium - until the sugar has dissolved. Use half the syrup for the top of the loaf, and the other half for the sides and bottom. The original recipe recommends waiting 24 hours before eating to let the syrup distribute.


  1. 13 tbsp! oof! haha, i've made worse! sounds delicious though, and i'm tempted to try it with soy milk and egg substitutes :)

  2. Yeah, it's definitely a lot of butter, but a little butter doesn't scare me! ;)

  3. Cannot thank you enough for this. I had no recipe for all my poppy seeds (why does a woman have such a large jar of poppy seeds as I do if she has no use? For this eventuality, of course) Lovely. So grateful.

  4. Marion, I'm so glad you've found a use for your poppy seeds! I still have a bunch left over - I'm thinking maybe lemon poppy seed cupcakes/muffins...