Beth's Orange Poppy Seed Bread

I received an email from my dear friend Beth yesterday. She lives in Tennessee and tells me her dogwood's are in full bloom and turning very white. I'm jealous. Living in southern California, our climate is not right for gorgeous trees such as the dogwood... or even the weeping cherry. Those are two of my favorite trees. When I lived in Virginia I took great pride in my dogwoods and weeping cherries. After all, the dogwood is the state flower of Virginia :) The pink dogwood is my favorite but the white dogwood is beautiful too!

In April 1995 when I moved from California to Virginia, my flight from LAX was not a direct one - I had a connection in Nashville. I'd never been to Tennessee before but I'll never forget my first impression as we were making our final approach into the airport. In a word... trees! Lots and lots and lots of beautiful, gorgeous, green trees!!! Now to some of you that might sound ridiculous... but if you live in Southern California and/or have ever landed at LAX, you will know that you see buildings... lots and lots of buildings... and cars... and freeways... and well, here and there you'll see a dotting of small trees and some palm trees. But landing in Nashville I was struck by how there were so many trees it was like a rolling blanket of ~~green~~. I was worried we were going to land in a "forest" because I didn't see the airport or runway until the last minute.

One of the things I miss most about living in Northern Virginia is my foliage. About a year or two before I left I embarked on a very ambitious landscaping project and hired a contractor to renovate my entire front yard. He did a fantastic job and everything looked beautiful. He planted a young weeping cherry tree in a prime location which complemented the existing mature dogwood trees that framed the yard. I miss looking out my window and gazing at that weeping cherry each spring and delighting in the the bright red buds as they transformed into delicate pink blooms that, en masse, looked billowy soft. I miss my home in Virginia very much. I especially miss the trees. And 13 years ago when I saw all the beautiful trees as we were landing in Nashville, I knew Tennessee had to be a really nice place. And now all these years later I know I was right because nice people like my dear friend Beth live in Tennessee :)

When Beth first told me about her Orange Poppy Seed Bread, it sounded fantastic. Of course I wanted to eat it but I also started thinking about how much I wanted to make it! Last weekend Beth was gracious enough to share her recipe with me. I was hesitant to ask since I whole-heartedly respect any cook's desire to protect their secret weapons! LOL!!! But Beth was totally excited to share it! I could hear the excitement in the words of her email :) Since the recipe calls for fresh oranges or orange juice... and I'm allergic to oranges... I initially fully intended to make a lemon version instead. I thought on this for quite a while and in the end I decided to make the first go-round true to Beth's recipe and go with the orange. As I've gotten older my ability to tolerate oranges comes and goes and I was super pleased this recipe caused me no trouble at all. Next time... I'm gonna try lemon because I love pretty much anything lemon. But I'm glad I stayed true to the original and made the orange this time because it is soooooo ridiculously good! I can't wait to make it again! I hope you make it too. And I hope you are fortunate enough to have a "dear friend Beth"... someone who opens your eyes to all sorts of things you would have missed otherwise... things like Orange Poppy Seed Bread :)

Orange Poppy Seed Bread
adapted from my dear friend Beth's recipe :)

... for the bread...
1½ cups flour
1¼ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon Poppy Seeds
¾ cup milk
½ cup + 2 Tablespoons oil
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon Almond Extract
1 Tablespoon Butter Flavoring
zest of one large orange

... for the glaze...
¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice with lots of the pulp!
¾ cup confectioners sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon butter flavoring

Preheat oven to 350F
Mix all bread ingredients together for two minutes in a mixer on medium high speed.
Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and do not remove from pan. Poke several holes in the bread while its still warm (I used a meat grilling fork with long tines) and spoon glaze over it.
Let cool completely then remove from pan.

Slice... eat... enjoy... and make lots of happy noises like "nom nom nom!!!" =)