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Orange blossom water sets lemon loaf cake apart

Produce purchased by the bag has a way of compelling a cook’s creativity.

Just as a bag of avocados inspired this blog’s previous post, a bag of organic lemons purchased for a sweet deal at Medford’s Food 4 Less is enticing me to make this quick bread set apart with a specialty seasoning.

Orange blossom water isn’t so much a flavor but an aroma. I’ve blogged about it over the years when I’m particularly pleased with its addition to salads and fruit dishes. It keeps just about forever alongside my bottle of rosewater. It’s a previously obscure product in this part of the country that’s become more available at grocers in recent years. Or purchase it online.

This loaf would be lovely even without it. But the orange blossom water adds that je ne sais quoi that tempers the lemon’s zest and heightens the fruit’s natural sweetness.

As the pantheon of citrus comes on over the next few months, feel free to substitute other varieties, including Cara Cara oranges and tangelos, as suggested by recipe testers for the Los Angeles Times.

Orange Blossom Yogurt Lemon Loaf

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided

2 lemons

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon orange blossom water

Heat oven to 350 F. Lightly coat an 8 1/2- by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment paper and spray again.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. Place 1 cup sugar in bowl of a food processor. Use a Microplane grater to remove zest from both the lemons, letting it fall directly over sugar. Juice lemons into a bowl and reserve; you should have at least 6 tablespoons juice.

Pulse sugar until it’s evenly yellow and has texture of wet sand. Add the oil and pulse until well-mixed. Add the eggs and pulse just until incorporated. Add the yogurt, 1 tablespoon reserved lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of the orange blossom water. Pulse just until last streak of white yogurt disappears. Sprinkle the flour evenly over wet ingredients and pulse just until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake in preheated oven until a wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean, for about 55 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar with 1/4 cup reserved lemon juice. Set pan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar, then boil until liquid is clear, for about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water into syrup.

Unmold warm cake and brush bottom and sides evenly with lemon syrup. Cool completely on wire rack.

Cake can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 1 week.

VARIATIONS: Glazed Lemon Loaf: Stir 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water into 1 cup powdered sugar to make a very thick glaze. Spread evenly over cooled cake, letting glaze naturally drip down sides.

Lemon Olive Oil Cake: Substitute extra-virgin olive oil for the vegetable oil.

Yogurt Citrus Cake: Substitute other citrus, such as oranges, Mandarins, clementines, grapefruit or limes or a combination, for lemons.

Tribune News Service photo