I am a lemon lover. Growing up we had lemon trees surrounding our house…I never knew how lucky I was! We would make freshly squeezed lemonade throughout the summer and I even had lemons decorating the edges of my wedding cake as an ode to favorite summer memories. This sourdough lemon loaf is a take on the lemon cake we grew up eating and loving all lemon season long! My version uses sourdough discard, and the result is a tender crumb full of lemon zest and topped with a sweet lemon glaze. Savor the taste of nostalgia and brighten your day with this irresistible sourdough discard lemon loaf.
Ingredients in Sourdough Discard Lemon Loaf
Sourdough Discard: You can use fresh, bubbly sourdough starter if you want. If you don’t mind a more pronounced sourdough flavor, you can use refrigerated discard up to a week or two old. I always use 100% hydration sourdough discard.
Unsalted Butter: I always bake with unsalted butter. This recipe calls for a lot of butter. Unsalted butter allows me to control the flavor in my baked goods — there is no standard for the amount of salt in salted butter, which makes using salted butter a little unpredictable.
Lemons: The lemon flavor in this cake comes from zesting fresh lemons and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Eggs: Eggs mixed with sugar add a rich sweetness to the lemon loaf.
Sugar: Granulated sugar gives the perfect sweetness that complements the lemon zest.
Flour: All purpose flour works well for this recipe. If you want an even more tender crumb, you can use cake flour.
Sour Cream: Sour cream adds the perfect richness to this delicious lemon loaf.
Baking Powder: Baking powder is the main rising agent in the lemon loaf. Once it hits the hot oven, the baking powder is activated and the combination of heat and baking powder makes the lemon loaf rise.
Salt: Salt adds balance and enhances the flavors of the lemon loaf. Don’t leave it out.
Sourdough Discard in this Sourdough Lemon Loaf
I love adding sourdough discard to a lot of recipes because I don’t want to waste the discard. I’ve found that for best results I use 100% hydration sourdough discard, in other words, discard that has been fed with equal weights of water and flour. If your discard is thinner or thicker than that, add a little extra flour or a little extra lemon juice as needed. The older the discard, the more sour it has the potential to make the bread. I prefer to use discard that is only a day or two old or bubbly sourdough starter for this recipe.
Mixing Together Lemon Loaf
Mixing up this sourdough lemon loaf is so simple. The most difficult part is zesting the lemons, but using a good zester makes it fun. To a large bowl, add the melted butter, lemon zest, granulated sugar and eggs. Whisk together until thoroughly combined. Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and sourdough discard. Whisk again until completely combined. To a small bowl add the flour, baking powder and salt. Fluff together, add the flour mixture to the lemon mixture and stir together. Gently mix in the sour cream and stir until combined. Pour the mixture in a parchment-lined baking pan.
Lining a Pan with Parchment Paper
I always line my pan with parchment paper for any quick breads that I make. It makes cleanup so much easier and it makes it easy to pull the loaf out of the pan to let it cool (no sticky edges or corners). I love using this parchment paper to line the pan. Pull off an amount about the size of your loaf pan and gently place it into the pan so it hangs over the long sides. Spray the short sides if desired and spread the lemon loaf batter into the pan.
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Baking the Sourdough Discard Lemon Loaf
I tried baking this loaf at different temperatures, and this low-and-slow method definitely produced the best results. Put the sourdough lemon loaf in a preheated 350 degree F oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F and continue baking for about 50 minutes. Stick a toothpick in the middle of the loaf and if it comes out clean, the loaf has finished baking. Let the loaf cool for about 10 minutes before removing from the pan and topping with the glaze.
Lemon glaze is the literal icing on the cake. It gives such a vibrant and delicious lemon flavor that enhances the entire lemon loaf. It glazes perfectly and I would be lying if I said the top wasn’t my favorite bite. Whisk together fresh lemon juice, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Add a little extra lemon zest for color and flavor if desired. Pour the glaze over the lightly warm or cooled loaf. Enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I store extra Sourdough Discard Lemon Loaf?
Due to the amount of butter in this recipe, it stays well at room temperature for a couple of days. After that, I slice the loaf and store any extra pieces in an airtight bag or container in the freezer. When you want to eat a piece, pull it out of the freezer to thaw or zap it in the microwave for about 20 seconds.
Can I substitute bottled lemon juice?
I prefer the flavor of freshly squeezed lemons, especially with the lemon zest. Zest adds a big part of the lemon flavor in this loaf. But, in a pinch you can substitute bottled lemon juice.
Can I add dried fruit or nuts to this lemon loaf?
I think this loaf would be delicious with some crushed, freeze dried strawberries mixed in. You could also add a small amount (1/2 cup) of dried fruit or nuts. Mix them in after the batter is mixed.
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Sourdough Discard Lemon Loaf
Sourdough Lemon Loaf
- 227 grams unsalted butter melted, about 1 cup
- 2 Tablespoons lemon zest about 2 large lemons
- 200 grams granulated sugar about 1 cup
- 3 large eggs about 150 grams
- 20 grams freshly squeezed lemon juice about 2 Tablespoons
- 113 grams sourdough discard, 100% hydration see recipe notes, about 1/2 cup
- 185 grams all purpose flour about 1 1/4 cups
- 4 grams baking powder about 1 teaspoon
- 2 grams salt about 1/4 teaspoon
- 120 grams sour cream about 1/2 cup
Sourdough Lemon Loaf Glaze
- 110 grams powdered sugar about 1 cup
- 10 grams freshly squeezed lemon juice use a little extra to thin the glaze as desired
- 2 grams vanilla extract about 1/2 teaspoon
- To a large bowl, add the melted butter, lemon zest, granulated sugar and eggs. Whisk together until thoroughly combined. Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and sourdough discard. Whisk again until completely combined.
- To a small bowl add the flour, baking powder and salt. Fluff together.
- Add the flour mixture to the lemon mixture and stir together. Add the sour cream and stir until completely combined. Pour the mixture in the parchment-lined baking pan.
- Bake the loaf at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F for about 50 minutes. Stick a toothpick in the lemon loaf and if it comes out clean, it is finished baking. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and continuing to cool on a wire rack. Let cool before topping with lemon glaze.
- Lemon Glaze: Whisk together fresh lemon juice, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Add some lemon zest if desired. Drizzle on top of the mostly-cooled loaf and enjoy.