I’m mad at these muffins. Mad because they took me three tries to get just right yesterday. Mad because the third variation turned out so well that I filled my belly with muffins before I went to bed last night. Fortunately, they’re composed of yogurt (instead of sour cream) and white whole wheat flour (instead of all-purpose flour), so they are more redeeming than your average muffins.
I realize that being mad at an inanimate, edible object is totally ridiculous. It’s like being mad at a puppy who’s been caught nibbling on your favorite pair of shoes. Impossible! They’re just muffins and puppies being their irresistible little selves.
Actually, after my leavening issues with the other batches yesterday, I’m downright proud of these muffins. After my lackluster first batch, I doubled the initial amounts of lemon zest and poppy seeds found in typical lemon poppy seed muffins, so these guys are bursting with flavor. No sissy muffins here. I also decided to use white whole wheat flour, which retains all of the nutrients of whole wheat flour but has a lighter flavor and color. That way the lemon could really shine.
Before baking, I opted to sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar, which produces a sweet, crackling top that complements the texture of the poppy seeds. The finished muffins dome up nicely—not as high as they would if they had less poppy seeds and were made of all-purpose flour—but the resulting texture is rich, almost like pound cake.
I learned a few tips for muffin making yesterday that might be of interest to you (source: Diana’s Desserts). First, don’t fill your muffin cups over three-fourths full or you’ll get flat, flying saucer-like tops. For nice rounded tops, grease only the bottom of the cups and halfway up the sides.
I’ve also found that paper liners make for easier clean up, but I much prefer the crisp bottoms that result from baking the muffin batter directly against the pan. Lastly, rubbing the zest into the sugar imparts way more citrus flavor than just whisking the two together. Now you know!
Lastly, while I love to use natural liquid sweeteners like honey in my baked goods, honey didn’t work here. I tried reducing the amounts of liquid so I could add one-half cup honey in place of the sugar, but the resulting texture seemed kind of spongy and the muffins didn’t taste sweet enough to delight. Plus, it’s impossible to rub zest into a liquid like honey, so the muffins didn’t taste very lemony. I opted to use organic cane sugar instead of honey for these and I’m pleased with the results. One-half cup sugar divided by twelve muffins really isn’t an amount worth worrying about.
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon pure cane sugar
- 2 medium lemons, preferably organic (you’ll need the zest of both and the juice of one)
- 1½ cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
- ¼ cup poppy seeds
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- ¾ cup plain yogurt (plain Greek yogurt works, too)
- 1 large egg (update 3/20/14: use 2 eggs for richer and slightly fluffier, more cupcake-like muffins)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease your muffin pan using butter or non-stick cooking spray. (Pro tip: grease only the bottoms and halfway up the cups so your muffin tops don’t flatten out while baking.)
- Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl. Use your fingers to rub the zest into sugar until the sugar is fragrant and pale yellow throughout. Whisk in the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a separate, smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the butter, yogurt, egg, vanilla and the juice of one of your bald lemons.
- Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Use a large spoon to mix the two together. Stir only until the flour is fully incorporated into the liquid.
- Divide batter evenly between the 12 muffins cups. The batter will be thick but don’t worry, your muffins will turn out great. The cups should not be more than three-fourths full. Sprinkle the muffins with turbinado sugar and wipe off any sugar that lands between the muffin cups.
- Bake for 16 to 19 minutes, until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes in the muffin pan, then carefully transfer the muffins to a baking rack to cool completely.
- Adapted from my blueberry lemon muffins, with references to The Fauxmartha and Two Peas and their Pod.
- Yields one dozen muffins.
- Feel free to substitute spelt flour for the white whole wheat flour.
- For a lighter texture, I think you could substitute ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour for ¾ cup of the white whole wheat flour.
P.s. For more lemon and poppy seed goodness, try my orange poppy seed pound cake (rich and decadent, made with olive oil and yogurt, feel free to sub lemon for the orange), lemon blueberry muffins and lemon blueberry scones (both are made with yogurt, frozen blueberries work great).