lemon poppy seed muffins

lemon poppy seed muffins

Bear with me, folks. We’re still adjusting to the time change over here. The days that follow the springing forward of clocks are always some of the most brutal for me, it’s like a weeklong hangover. Losing that one hour ruins me for months – I swear I never really make the adjustment. I’ve accepted the fact that my body is meant to be on standard time. I’ll be secretly counting down till November.

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But I will admit that it is quite glorious to leave work when it’s still light out. And driving over the Bay Bridge with the windows down and the sun shining bright at 5:20pm in the middle of March feels like winning. So I suppose I’ll just put myself to bed a little bit earlier for the next couple of weeks and do my best to cope.

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You’ve probably gathered from all of this talk that I’m not much of a morning person. The only thing I really like about mornings is breakfast – it’s my favorite meal of the day, which is why I always make a point of having something substantial and satisfying. Lately I’ve been into Straus Greek yogurt with blueberries and hazelnuts and a drizzle of maple syrup. I am hooked on that Straus Greek yogurt – I can’t go back to any other brand.

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While I really enjoy my simple yogurt bowl at work every morning, I love doing it up on the weekends for breakfast. Usually it involves eggs. But this past Sunday, after walking around in zombie mode for a good part of the morning, I thought some muffins would help me get through the day.

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Since I ended up with a bag full of lemons after our lemon tree split in two about a week ago, I knew it was going to be some sort of lemon muffin. I also happened to have some poppy seeds on hand, so when I landed on a recipe for lemon poppy seed muffins, my mind was made up.

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These are everything you want in a breakfast muffin. They’re the perfect amount of sweet and they’re fantastic just out of the oven. I love their all-around lemony-ness, especially the drizzle of icing on top. I decided to make these extra special with a dollop of surprise blueberry jam in the center, which is totally optional but highly recommended. And they come together in under an hour, which means you can totally make a batch of muffins in the morning before heading out for the day. And the people you share them with will think  you are awesome. Just don’t take any drug tests afterwards.

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lemon poppy seed muffins

From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

makes 1 dozen standard size muffins, or about 7 jumbo muffins

2/3 cup sugar

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sour cream

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1/3 cup jam (optional)

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted 

2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 

for the muffins:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, rub the sugar and the lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and hte fragrance of the lemon strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whish the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough-a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the poppy seeds. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
If making jam-filled muffins, fill the muffin cups with half the batter and top each with a teaspoon full of jam. Spoon the rest of the batter over the jam and proceed.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold. Cool the muffins completely on the rack before icing them. Best served the day they’re made.
for the icing:
Put the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl and add about 1-1/2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Stir with a spoon to moisten the sugar, then add enough additional lemon juice, a dribble at a time, to get an icing that is thin enough to drizzle from the tip of the spoon. You can then drizzle lines of icing over the tops of the muffins or coat the tops entirely.

reconstructed potato salad with preserved lemon

It’s about that time again. I have a bad case of summer brain. It’s serious. I can’t focus. I find myself daydreaming about beaches and coastal drives and a house in the woods. Midday cocktails. Ice cream for dinner. Fireworks.

Nothing is getting done around here. Except for this salad. This salad is happening.

Earlier this year, I woke up one morning and decided I must have preserved lemons in my life. I proceeded to salt-pack a couple pounds of Meyer lemons; I had a feeling they would come in handy in the months ahead. I’ve waited very patiently for the magic to happen, the transformation from their natural, fresh-off-the-tree state to that salty, tender, essence of lemon entity. After four months, they’re finally ready.

fingerling potatoes

This salad has been on my to-do list for over a year. I knew I would get to it as soon as those lemons were ready. I think of it as a reconstructed potato salad. It involves fingerling potatoes, a smear of mayonnaise, and chopped preserved lemon. It’s finished off with a drizzle of olive oil, flaky sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and chives. The preserved lemon really takes it to another level – I love that salty-lemony element; I want to put it on everything. I’m so happy I had the foresight to take care of that lemon situation back in March.

Because of the simplicity of this dish, the ingredients are key. Naturally, you can buy preserved lemons and mayo, but as the ladies at the Canal House say, why buy it when you can make it? I am a firm believer of this philosophy. Plus, as you know, starting with the best ingredients is really important when preparing something so minimal. In this dish, it makes all the difference.

reconstructed potato salad with preserved lemon

reconstructed potato salad with preserved lemon

from Canal House Cooking Volume No. 1: Summer by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer

serves 6

2-3 pounds small potatoes

salt

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil

fresh ground pepper

rind from 1 preserved lemon, rinsed and chopped

chopped fresh chives or parsley

Put the potatoes in a large pot of cold water generously seasoned with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until they are tender. Drain.

When they are cool enough to handle, slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and arrange them on a serving platter, spreading mayonnaise on one side of each potato as you work. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with the preserved lemon and chives.

preserved lemons

lemons, preferably organic and unsprayed, washed

kosher salt

sterilized wide mouth container with an airtight lid

Cut the lemons (almost all the way through) into quarters, keeping them attached at the stem end. Working over a bowl, tamp the inside of each lemon with salt. Tightly pack the salt-filled lemons into the sterilized container. Pour more salt over the lemons as you fill the container. Cover the salt-packed lemons with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Store in the refrigerator. Turn the container occasionally for the first few weeks to moisten all the lemons with the salty brine. The lemons should eventually become submerged in the brine. If the brine doesn’t completely cover them after one month, use a metal kitchen spoon to gently press the lemons under the surface. The longer the lemons cure, the saltier they will become; taste them first before using. Preserved lemons will last up to one year in the fridge.

reconstructed potato salad

millet muffins

It has recently occurred to me that I almost never make muffins. I think it had been well over a year since my last batch. And then these millet muffins happened.

I love millet. Lately, I’ve been throwing a few spoonfuls in with my oatmeal in the morning. I especially I love the texture it lends to baked goods, that super satisfying crunch. I’ve never met a millet bread that I didn’t like.

So when I spotted millet muffins in Super Natural Everyday, which has become one of my favorites, I immediately flagged the recipe and couldn’t wait to make them.

I’ve made these muffins twice now and I’m sure I’ll make them again. Here’s why:

These guys are made with whole wheat flour without tasting like they’re whole wheat. In other words, they’re moist and have a really nice crumb – not too delicate, not too dense. They’re sweetened with only honey, making them just sweet enough; not quite dessert sweet, but more of a breakfast or midday sweet, which means a little butter and jam are perfectly welcome. They are fragrant with lemon and most importantly, they’re studded with crunchy bits of millet. These are definitely a keeper in my book. And a nice way to get reacquainted with muffins.

millet muffins

from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson

makes 12 muffins

2-1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/3 cup raw millet

1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

1 cup plain yogurt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup barely melted unsalted butter

1/2 cup honey

grated zest from 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons of juice

Preheat the oven to 400°F and position rack in the top third of the oven. butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan or line with paper liners.

Whisk together the flour, millet, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, butter, honey, and lemon zest and juice until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling each cup about 3/4 full.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the tops of the muffins are browned and just beginning to crack. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn the muffins out of the pan to cool completely on a wire rack.