Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins... And lessons in perseverence.

The past couple weeks have been a bit of a struggle, hence the radio silence here on my blog.  I'm sure you've all heard the usual excuses ("So busy at work!" "None of my recipes turned out!" "The cat ate my desserts before I could take a picture!"), but in my case, the first two are actually pretty true.  Especially the second one.

Ugh. First, I tried to make some toffee blondies, using the basic recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and even though I've made them before, they just didn't turn out well.  After tasting them, I took a look at my toffee bits package and realized they were over two years expired, so perhaps that's to blame.  After that failure, I saw some comments on her blog where someone used mashed banana, walnuts, and chocolate chips to create a "chunky monkey" blondie.  Well, that idea took root in my brain, and I needed to make them the next day.  And, yet again, they were just "okay" and not worthy of sharing with you.  So by now, my kitchen was full of around 30 mediocre blondies, and I was running low on sugar, butter, and confidence.  Matt and I went apple picking, and I had so many fresh apples that I knew I wanted to make something with them.  Because I'm incredibly stubborn, I decided to make..... Blondies. I followed this recipe, which had so many positive comments that I was sure it would be awesome!  And they were.... just okay.  More of an apple cake, the flavors were great and it was a satisfying dessert.  But by the next morning, they were a soggy mess, and I knew I couldn't recommend anyone making them.  So then I decided to shift gears, and make a delicious pumpkin bread using fresh cranberries that I had just snagged from the farmer's market.  I found a delicious sounding recipe here and eagerly went to baking.  And yet again, the bread was mediocre at best.  A few health nut coworkers of mine loved it, but it definitely wasn't something I'd ever make again.

So I didn't bake anything last week and instead replenished my supplies and dignity.  Matt refused to eat any more subpar blondies, and I was sick of filling my kitchen with desserts that I didn't want to eat and was too ashamed of to pass out to coworkers and hungry grad students.  For my next post, I hope to be talking about a successful blondie baking adventure, but for now I realize that I just need to share a recipe.

That brings me to these lemon poppyseed muffins.  I woke up yesterday feeling a little under the weather.  I couldn't really even taste my lunch, but I was craving baked goods.  I realized what I needed was a fresh flavor, and I went to several coffee carts on campus looking for lemon bread/cake/muffins and didn't find any.  Then I remembered that I had just bought some poppyseeds and lemons for emergencies such as these, and I started looking for recipes.  I found one with almost all positive reviews and set to baking.  I did make some changes after reading the reviews- I switched out half of the butter for applesauce (both to make them a little healthier and to keep them moist) and used almond extract instead of vanilla (because I adore almond extract and thought it would work well with the lemon, and it did!).

And these are really, really good.  These muffins are so good that I can definitely share them without feeling ashamed, but I also don't really want to because I want to save them for myself.  Every bite is like a little burst of sunshine, and these muffins are surprisingly perfect for a cold fall day (and great after the pumpkin pancakes I posted last and just made for dinner last night! word to the wise- try topping them with caramel apple frosting. best decision ever.). They are a little time consuming, and dirty 3 bowls but are absolutely worth your effort.
Here's the recipe!

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins, adapted from here.
Yield: Between 10-12 medium muffins (I got 11)

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp poppy seeds
2 lemons, zest of, grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk or 1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat muffin tin thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray.  In a large bowl, cream the butter, applesauce, and sugar until fluffy.  Add the egg yolks, one at a time.  Beat well after each.
In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients, poppy seeds, and lemon zest. 
With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating two times with the buttermilk, then lemon juice, and then vanilla or almond extract.  Beat just until smooth.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Gently fold egg whites into the muffin batter until blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, about 3/4-full for nice medium sized muffins.
Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool for 5 minutes before removing to cool completely on wire rack (but make sure you eat at least one warm out of the oven!).
 Nutritional info per muffin based on my ingredients and 11 muffins: 167 calories, 25g carbs, 6g fat, 3g protein.

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