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
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.