au revoir, fevrier
Sometime between the age of 1 and 9, when I lived in a small town in very eastern Pennsylvania of barely any consequence, my mother took us to a mall on Route 1 that my brother and I subsequently deemed “The Muffin Mall”.
Reaching back into the deep recesses of my memory, I see a vague, blurry image of a giant white box-shaped structure perched on the side of the highway, oddly out-of-place amidst gray, soggy marshlands, car manufacturing plants, and insurance company headquarters. I don’t remember why or how we ended up there, or why we went back more than once, as it was nowhere near where we lived, and didn’t really boast much in the way of shopping, either.
I think it must have been for the muffins.
Not for the faint of heart, they were the stuff of childhood dreams. Sized to rival softballs, with barely enough dough to hold together their chocolate and nut laced innards, they would certainly be placed under the firing squad of today’s health standards. My mom, bless her heart, would appease our increasingly insistent pleas every so often, pile us in to the old red Subaru station wagon, and whisk us off and away to depressing rural highways in search of sugar comas. Though she wouldn’t have admitted it to us then, I like to think that she secretly craved them, too. I mean, the woman hid Three-Musketeers bars in her purse and nibbled them, a bite or two each day. She was not one to deny herself the siren song of sugar.
Thankfully, my taste in muffins has moderated over the years. The pastries of my past have given way to lighter, relatively diminutive specimens, absent of cocoa but fragrant with citrus, ever so slightly buttery, and nudged into healthy territory with the sour tang of yogurt.
The genius of these muffins lies in the fact that you probably have everything you need already lying around your kitchen, and thus they can be thrown together in about 5 minutes, without need for your stand mixer, which is perfect when you are too sleepy and lazy to haul it down from the top of the fridge. I seem to be on a lemon kick lately, but when I look out the window and all I see is wind, cold, gray, and dingy snow piles, I can hardly be blamed. I don’t think you’ll mind, either, once you taste these. Pleasingly chewy and flecked with lemon rind, every other bite is tinged with a tangy sweet drizzle that offsets the yogurt in the batter quite nicely. I can’t think of a better way to send February on its way out than on a plate of sunny lemon muffins. Here’s to spring, right around the corner.
Lemon Yogurt Muffins
Adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 T honey (I used buckwheat honey, which was deep and lovely)
1-1/4 cups plain yogurt (I used Total Fage 0%)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
up to 2 T grated lemon zest (the original recipe called for 1 tablespoon. I think I will add more the next go-round)
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
3 T water
Preheat the oven to 375 and generously butter 12 muffin tins. Don’t be stingy, or the muffins will stick.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another, larger bowl, combine the sugar, honey, eggs, yogurt, melted butter, and lemon zest, and beat with a spoon until thoroughly mixed. Add the combined dry ingredients, and beat until just until you no longer see any floury streaks. Do not overbeat. The batter will be rather sticky, thick, and pillowy.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
While the muffins bake, prepare the lemony glaze. Combine the lemon juice, sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, boil for 1 minute, and then set aside.
When the muffins are done, remove the pan from the oven and gently poke the of the muffin three times with a fork. Drizzle about 2 teaspoons of the lemon syrup over each hot muffin, letting it run over the top and around the edge. Let cool in the pans for just a few moments, then remove and serve warm.
Makes 12 muffins.