Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Meyer Lemon Muffins

There is no shortage of sunshine in Florida this time of year, but there has been a sad lack of Meyer lemons. I may have been able to go to the beach and get a tan, but I was missing my little ray of culinary sunshine until now.

A few weeks ago, Whole Foods Market finally had a few Meyer lemons in stock, but they were sorry little specimens. The thin, sweet peels were so blemished they wouldn’t have been much use in a tart or scone recipe. Depressing as it was, I had to pass them up. Then a few days ago, we were shopping at Publix, the dominant Florida supermarket chain. Publix is a decent store, but I sometimes wonder if the lack of supermarket competition in these parts gives them an excuse to let things slide.

Apparently, that’s not the case. I’ve been known to curse the Publix, often vehemently, when they don’t have a certain ingredient or the well-traveled produce doesn’t look so great. When I saw a bin of beautiful Meyer lemons with smooth skin the color of egg yolks, I was singing the supermarket’s praises. They’ve also been delighting us with a lot of great regional beers lately, but that’s another story.

Anyway, I bought three lemons. This was a totally arbitrary number since I didn’t know what I would use them for. But you don’t just pass up the first perfect Meyer lemons of the year. You just don’t.

Being too busy to use them, I watched my lemons nervously for a couple days before I got it together and started googling for recipes. I found these tempting scones, a pudding cake and a soufflé, but it was this muffin recipe from the Los Angeles Times that called out to me. First off, it required exactly three Meyer lemons. Even better, and the thing I find unique, is that these muffins use the whole lemon. Just trim the stem, remove the seeds and chop it up roughly in a food processor or blender.

The flavor you get in the muffins is incredible. There’s no mistaking what’s in there—not pure lemon, but pure Meyer lemon. You can taste the special qualities of the fruit easily—less acidity and lemony sweetness. It’s a really simple recipe with a short ingredient list too. The dainty muffins are buttery, very moist, and dense so they’re quite satisfying. I love the look of the lemon baked on top. If you could ever describe a muffin as utterly juicy, this is it.

Meyer Lemon Muffins
Adapted from this recipe by Donna Deane for the Los Angeles Times
The original recipe instructed you to fill the muffin molds halfway to yield 18 muffins. I did not want my muffins to be so very tiny, and I only own one muffin pan. So, I filled the 12 molds about 3/4 full and discarded the leftover batter. I got normal-sized, but not large muffins, so I think it worked out well. I also thought the amount of sugar was a bit high, so I reduced it to 3/4 cup. This resulted in a mild sweetness level which was good, but I think next time I would go with the full cup of sugar. I also substituted whole wheat pastry flour for half of the AP flour, as I usually do, with good results.

Makes 12 to 18 muffins (see headnote)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tbs., divided
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 Meyer lemons, divided use
2 eggs
1 cup lowfat milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, 1 cup of the sugar, baking soda and salt.

Take 2 of the lemons, trim off the stem end and cut into 1-inch pieces, carefully removing the seeds as you go. Put the pieces in a food processor or blender and process until finely chopped, but not pureed.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the milk, butter and chopped lemon and whisk to combine. Pour the lemon mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until all the ingredients are moistened.

Coat 12 or 18 regular size muffin molds with nonstick spray, butter or paper liners. Fill them 3/4 full for 12 muffins (you’ll have leftover batter) or 1/2 full for 18 muffins. Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over the muffins. Thinly slice the remaining lemon into 6 or 9 pieces and cut the pieces in half. Place one lemon slice on each muffin, pressing gently. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes for 12 muffins, 20 minutes for 18 muffins. Finished muffins should be light golden on the bottom and sides. Cool for 2 minutes in the pan, then run a butter knife around muffins to loosen and transfer to a rack to cool.


Lydia said...

This recipe sounds delicious, and I love the little slices of Meyer lemon on top!

nicole said...

These look cute -- and you really use up the whole lemon, rind and all? That sounds interesting enough for me to take a crack at it ...

Cookie baker Lynn said...

These sound great. I'm a new convert to Meyer lemons and did a whole week of lemon posts last year. Mary of Alpineberry has a Meyer lemon tree in her yard and her blog is filled with delicious ways to use them.

Warda said...

I love this last shot! Sadely, the last time I came to Florida, we were missing some sunshine to have a proper tan. Meyer lemons became my favorite. I love how you topped each muffin with a slice of lemon. really adorable!

Peabody said...

I love Meyer lemons...the more recipes using them the better.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I'll definitely try these sunshin-y muffins. I'm in citrus overload here. I just made a lemonquat cake and I'll be posting on orange muffins soon. They look delicious!

Julie said...

Lydia: I loved the garnish too, as you can see from the many photos!
Nicole: yup, the whole lemon--that's what caught my eye too!
Lynn: I will definitely check out the archives on your and Mary's blogs--I'm so jealous of her!
Warda: thanks--sorry you couldn't get a tan in usually sunny FL!
Peabody: I totally agree. That's why I went looking for a new recipe instead of doing my lemon tart even though i love it. I thought about doing your madeleines, but wanted to be different of course.
Susan--I loved your lemonquat cake post--I think I left a comment! You're lucky out there in SoCal.

mollycal said...

Yum...I've been craving lemon sweets; I'll have to give these a try.

Carol said...

Hi, I just found your blog through Cookie Madness, and when I saw this recipe I had to comment. First, I will be making it SOON. Second, I am in Northern California and have a large, old Meyer lemon tree in my backyard that is just loaded right now. I am so thrilled to find a recipe that uses whole lemons! Can't wait to try it, thanks!

Want me to mail you some lemons? :-)

Julie said...

Hi Carol: Thanks for your comment! You are sooo lucky...send some my way now! I love this recipe, so I hope you enjoy it too. Using the peels is genius (I didn't come up with it, so I'm not bragging here!).

Leigh said...

YUM-- just came out of the oven and I've already helped myself to 2! I used agave instead of sugar (about 1/2 cup) and they came out moist and delicious. Thanks!

Julie said...

Leigh: Thanks for letting me know how they turned out! I'm so glad you like. It's definitely hard to eat just one!

Unknown said...

I know it's been ages since you posted this recipe, but I came across it while looking for Meyer lemon recipes, and it is fantastic! Thanks for posting. Mine did not turn out quite as pretty as yours, since my knife did not slice the Meyer lemon as thinly and neatly as you did, but they are very tasty. Looking forward to breakfast this week!

Julie said...

To unknown, thank you so much for coming back and leaving a comment on the muffins. I'm glad you like them --I think they're so tasty and different. Next time try cutting with a seriously sharp knife. I just had mine sharpened, and the different it makes in any task is amazing.

Anonymous said...

I just made these today they're very moist very delicious I just found that they were not sweet enough so I did a powdered sugar with some lemon juice and just put the tops of the muffins in the bowl with the lemon juice and powdered sugar and just give it a glaze very very good