Sunday, June 5, 2011

Chapter 30 - Fresh Thyme and Lemon Tea Bread

There's No Thyme Like the Present to Get into The Garden

If you're wondering where I've been (because it's been a couple of weeks since my last blog), I'll tell you.   I've been in the garden.

Pretty petunias
waiting to be planted
Virginia is a gardening state. 

I know that New Jersey is called the garden state (why, I do not know since it seems to be mostly asphalt and concrete) but in Virginia, gardening is our passion.

Maybe it's our abundance of horse manure (we're a horse state, too) that calls us to gardening.  Maybe it's love of our beautiful country side. 

Or maybe it's baskets of fresh produce for our kitchens and arm loads of cut flowers for our vases. 

Whatever the reason, we Virginians love our gardens.

We've had several weeks of rain then incredible heat so all our gardening chores here at Cheesecake Farms fell by the wayside.

But this past week, it's been gorgeous so each morning - just about sun rise - I've been jumping out of bed and heading out to the garden.

The Mane House
Trees and bushes are
 planted first to set the
I'm putting in a cottage garden in front of the Mane House.  It's been a long time coming.  

When we built the Mane House a few years ago, the builder stripped every bit of top soil from around the house and took it away - probably to sell it (Imagine that....selling OUR top soil!) - leaving us with solid clay.  Not even builders' grade grass grows in solid clay.

To repair the mess he left, I piled 24 inches of manure and straw from the barn all over and left it there for a couple of years before tilling. 

Since then, I've been planting slowly to make sure the ground is ready.
The Mane House
Perennials and herbs are
added to the front garden
First came the main elements...trees, hedges and bushes. 

With the next year came the perennial plants and herbs.  So far so good.  It's all filling in nicely. 

I use annuals (flowers and vegetables) to fill in the bare spots as the perennials take shape.  

Today, I decided to bake myself a treat.  Here's my recipe for a most unexpected flavor combination that you're going to love.

Fresh Thyme and Lemon Tea Bread
Snip a little thyme from your herb garden and whip up this oh so elegant, oh so lady-like, oh so unusual treat. Share it at tea or keep it all to yourself as a reward for all the gardening chores you've done.

Serve plain or dusted with powdered sugar.
Toast slices then spread with unsalted butter and a drizzle of local honey. 
Make lovely sandwiches using a filling mixture of softened cream cheese combined with a little milk or orange juice to make it fluffy.

Makes one loaf
Pan size: 8 X 4 X 2 inches
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 (3 oz.) package regular cream cheese (softened - low fat or fat free not recommended)
3 tablespoons butter (margarine not recommended)
2/3 cup sugar
1 large or extra large egg (1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (no stems)
Grated rind of 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons - a little more or less is OK)
1/2 cup whole milk (other milk not recommended)

Position oven rack so loaf will bake in center.  Preheat to 350 degrees.  Grease pan.  Dust with flour.

Sift flour, and baking powder together.

In another bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together butter, cream cheese and sugar.  Add egg, thyme and lemon rind.  Stir in half the flour mixture then half the milk.  Repeat.  Scrape bowl.  Beat on high 2 minutes.

Pour into prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven 45 - 55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes before removing from pan.  Finish cooling, top side up, on rack.


Want to take a gardening class at Cheesecake Farms?
Click here and we'll send you info.

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