Food & Drink

Why we hate powdered sugar, and how to make a glam glazed lemon loaf without it

Lemon juice melted into granulated sugar forms a thin, shiny syrup that soaks into the loaf, bolstering its potency and imparting a glamorous gloss. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
Lemon juice melted into granulated sugar forms a thin, shiny syrup that soaks into the loaf, bolstering its potency and imparting a glamorous gloss. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Hate is a vile habit. It provokes sore feelings and tribal tendencies and war — all best avoided. Yet I admit: I hate powdered sugar.

I’m aware it’s sugar, powdered. It’s also cut with cornstarch, to curb clumping. It may sound innocent, but trust me: powdered sugar is up to no good. Taste a spoonful: vile. Sift it: instant coughing fit. Powdered sugar poses a health hazard.

Now that I have one of those buff blenders, I’ve discovered I can grind my own powdered sugar, minus the cornstarch. But why bother? Most recipes made with powdered sugar are better without.

Like glaze. Lemon juice stirred into powdered sugar makes a thick, white goo that glares from the top of lemon loaf. Lemon juice melted into granulated sugar forms a thin, shiny syrup that soaks into the loaf, bolstering its potency and imparting a glamorous gloss. Try a bite: nothing but peace, love and lemon power.

VERY LEMON LOAF

Prep: 45 minutes

Bake: 1 hour

Makes: One loaf, 9 by 5 by 3 inches

4 large or 6 small lemons, scrubbed

1 stick unsalted butter (plus about 2 teaspoons for pan), softened

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 whole eggs plus 1 yolk

1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

Prep: Finely grate zest from lemons. Measure 2 tablespoons zest, and set aside. Juice lemons. Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

Beat: Drop butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. On medium-high speed, beat fluffy, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed, about 1 minute. Cascade in 1 cup sugar, still beating; beat fluffy, about 1 minute. Slide in eggs and yolk; beat fluffy. Beat in ricotta, the 2 tablespoons zest and 1/4 cup of the juice. Slide in flour mixture; beat on low speed just to combine.

Bake: Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick stabbed in the center comes out flecked with crumbs, 55 to 60 minutes. Cool, 10 minutes. Run a blunt knife around the sides to loosen edges. Turn out; set on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

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Glaze: While cake is baking, make glaze. Pour remaining 1/2 cup sugar into a medium saucepan. Measure in 1/4 cup juice. Simmer until sugar has dissolved and syrup thickens a bit, about 3 minutes. Brush glaze over top and sides of warm lemon loaf. (You may not use all the glaze.) When cool (or just barely warm), slice and serve.

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