I was reading my Cook's Country magazine this morning while sipping my coffee. This magazine is always full of classic recipes, old recipes made new and usually something unique and inspiring. The main recipes each have a beautiful photo along with the story behind the the tasty creation, (see why I love it so much)! One recipe caught my eye this morning. Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins! I had missed this one on the first read through, it was kind of off in the margin, like a bonus. The heading for the piece was:
Stirring poppy seeds and lemon zest into the muffin batter fell short, so we rethought a few things. (Nick Iverson of Cook's Country)Hmmmm and mmmmm is what I was thinking?!
They're muffins, what could be so complicated? Turns out they were getting too tough in the process and ingredients needed some re-distribution. The lemon zest was eventually assigned to the wet ingredients and the poppy seeds were stirred into the dry, before combining. In baking if you stir your batter too much you can end up upsetting the balance of gluten and produce too much. This eliminated that additional stirring. While in the test kitchen they also decided to borrow an idea from an old lemon tea bread recipe. It calls for a brushing of lemon sugar syrup, can you say yum (go ahead)!
As I read this I kept thinking about how cooking is so much like writing. You start with something that is basic, it may have too much of something or too little of something else. You revise it, you add, delete, taste, repeat. You check your method, sometimes it can be a mystery what is wrong, but eventually the problems reveal themselves. You let others taste, comment, then you get back in the kitchen and revise. These muffins are like a great piece of writing, starting out good but not great. They even got a little help from a relative, the sweet bread mentor. Eventually, through many failed efforts a near perfect muffin was created! Aah, the satisfaction after all that work (and if you are still striving for something better, it might mean you never stop improving your recipe)!
Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins
makes 12 muffins
3 cups (15 ounces) all purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) plus 1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest plus 1/4 cup juice (2 lemons)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare (grease or papers) a 12 cup muffin tin.
2. Whisk flour, 1 cup sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In a second bowl whisk yogurt, eggs and lemon zest until smooth. Fold yogurt mixture into flour with a rubber spatula until just combined, (this will help cut down on the gluten production I was talking about earlier in this post). Fold in melted butter. (Batter can be refrigerated in covered container for 24 hours if desired).
3. Divide batter into muffin cups (about 1/3 cup each). Bake until golden, 25-30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.
4. Meanwhile combine the 1/4 cup sugar with lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until syrupy, this takes about 2-3 minutes. When muffins have cooled in the pan for 5 minutes, flip them out onto a wire rack. Brush them with warm syrup and cool for about ten more minutes (if you can stand it)!