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Plus, How to Get Those Pretty, High Domed Muffins Every Time!
We have had a couple of nice springlike days here, but not nearly enough to make up for how the weather has abused us recently. So, I am looking for a little bit of internal sunshine to brighten up my outlook, and how better than to bake some pretty Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins?
I have been experimenting with improving the way I make muffins. Previously, though they tasted good, I found the appearance to be somewhat lacking – kind of small and rather flat on the tops. I found bits of advice in various locations, and ended up combining the ideas together to get perfect muffins every time.
Firstly, I wanted to make sure that what I was making were actually muffins – a bit on the dense side, with a heartier texture than a more delicate cake would be. That took me back to Junior High Home-Ec class where Mrs Young taught us various cooking techniques, including the “muffin method” of combining ingredients. That is where you make two mixtures – a “dry” and a “wet”, and quickly combine them just till they are mixed. There is no creaming together butter and sugar in a true “muffin-method” recipe because that changes the texture.
I know that you are now gob-smacked that I am old enough to have not only gone to Junior High, but to have taken Home Ec. The things you find out in a blog, eh? And even I – a dedicated tomboy – loved Home Ec. It wasn’t math, and we got to eat – a good combination of circumstances in my book.
Anyway – it turns out there are a couple of different things that really influence how high a muffin will rise. The first, and most obvious thing is how much batter goes into each muffin. But you can’t just put in more of any old batter and expect it to rise enough – the batter has to be nice and thick, with enough flour to create a structure that will hold up. The batter in other muffins I have made, like these Orange Cardamom Muffins just wasn’t thick enough, and though they are really tasty muffins, they are on the flat side. So, the amounts in the recipe itself had to be increased to the point that I still had enough batter for a dozen muffins.
Okay – so now we have to make a larger batch of batter that is sturdy enough to hold it’s shape when it rises, but there is one more factor, and that is oven temperature. You have to start out with a higher temperature, because then the muffins will rise more quickly, from the outside in – then you lower the temperature to finish baking the insides. It has been delicious research, but now it is time to share it.
These are SO lemony – they use twice as much juice and zest as my old recipe, and more poppy seeds too. Even with as many batches as it has taken to get them right, we aren’t tired of that great sweet-tart balance.To really increase the lemon impact, rub the zest and sugar together before combining with the other dry ingredients – this really releases the oils from the zest, and gives these muffins even more intense flavor.
Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- The zest of two medium lemons [you will use the juice as well]
- 2 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1 & 1/4 cups Greek yogurt - any kind is fine
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons butter melted and cooled for a few minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 425º, and line a 12 spot muffin tin with papers, or butter each well generously.
- In a medium mixing bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together to release the oils from the zest - you can do this with your fingertips, or just mash it around with the times of a fork.
- Whisk in the flour, salt, baking powder and poppy seeds.
- In a 2 cup measuring cup, or a similarly sized bowl, combine the yogurt and eggs, and then stir in the lemon juice.
- Pour the yogurt mixture, and the melted butter into the dry ingredients and combine quickly, using as few strokes as possible - you want a somewhat shaggy batter, and a dry spot here and there is fine - don't over-mix!
- Fill each cup in the muffin tin almost to the very top - it is going to seem like they are too full and this is too much batter, but it is just right.
- Immediately place the filled tin in the hot oven and set the timer for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, turn the tin, and lower the heat to 375º.
- Bake about 10 to 12 minutes more - a toothpick inserted near the center of a muffin should come out with no more than a few moist crumbs on it.
- Turn the muffins out onto a cooling rack [they will get soggy if you leave them in the muffin tin] and cool for just a few minutes before serving with plenty of soft butter, maybe some jam, whipped cream cheese or lemon curd.
- Store leftovers tightly wrapped - these are best eaten pretty quickly, but can be reheated if eaten later.
These are probably my favorite muffins that I have ever made – I love the little crunchy “pop” from the poppy seeds, and because of the high baking temperature at the start, they get a nice crispiness on the tops while the centers stay nice and soft. Delish!