Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Orange-lemon poppy seed muffins

I wasn't planning on making a post about this but I ended up making so many changes to the recipe I started with just fixing it up that I ended up with something entirely different. Even though it didn't turn out the best muffins I've ever had, it still seemed worth talking about.

I don't know about you, but I like to keep my muffins fairly austere. Not to the self-flagellant extremity of bran muffins, but I don't want a recipe packed with sour cream, yogurt or cream cheese either. If I wanted cupcakes, I'd make cupcakes. On the other hand, I'm not making health food here either, just something I don't feel entirely ridiculous eating for breakfast.

Ingredients for 12 muffins:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (down from the original full Tablespoon. But given the under-risen results, maybe I'd use all of it next time despite the math saying it's too much.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/6 cup orange juice (all lemon juice in the original, but I thought a little orange would round out the flavor.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
three handfuls streusel topping (I keep a bag pre-mixed in the pantry. It's flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, some chopped walnuts.)
1 Tablespoon softened butter

0. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1. Mix the dry ingredients in the first ingredients section in a large bowl. I included the zest and seeds with the dry so they'd get coated in flour and stay evenly distributed in the batter.

2. Mix the wet ingredients in the second section in a smaller bowl. The sugar is with the wet because you want it dissolved.

3. Mix the streusel topping with the butter using your fingers until it gets knobbly.

4. Form a well in the dry mix and pour the wet mix in. Stir just enough to moisten. Lumps are fine, whole layers of dry flour probably not.

5. Butter a muffin tin or use non-stick. Evenly distribute the batter using an ice-cream or coffee scoop. Top each with a sprinkle of the streusel. Pat it down a little so it sticks.

6. Open the oven door and leave it open for a moment for the heating cycle to click on. You want the muffins to start with a burst of heat to help them rise. Put in the muffin tin and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning halfway through.

7. You want them golden brown on top, dry in the middle, but not crusty crisp around the bottom. At 18 minutes, mine are a little over-baked.
When they look done, turn them out onto a dish towel. Alton Brown says to leave them upside down for better volume. I flipped them right side up for the picture and my volume wasn't a good as I had hoped so maybe he's right.

But they still look pretty good. Let's look inside...

Not too bad. Looks cakey and crumbly. And let's have a taste...

Huh, tastes kind of like cornbread. I wonder how that happened. The lemon is aromatic, but not tart. The crumb is soft and buttery--just a bit dry and with a little crunch from the poppy seeds. Just a little sweet. I think I hit the target I was aiming at in terms of richness, but the flavor is--let's put it charitably--subtle. There is a lot going on with the citrus, the whole wheat, the butter, the poppy seed and all the flavors in the streusel, but they're understated. A little dull on its own, but a spoonful of apricot jam sets things aright. Overall I'm happy, but next time I'm adding some flavor extracts or spices to boost the flavors.


kat said...

I like that tip about leaving the oven open for a blast of heat at the beginning of cooking. WOnder if that applies for other baked goods

billjac said...

It definitely does. It's a variation of the falling oven trick I use when baking bread. (Preheating to 500 and turning down the heat to 450 when the dough goes in.) Muffins are more delicate so this less extreme version seems more appropriate.