Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dreary Saturday Mornings Were Meant for Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

They're in the oven right now, plumping up into pillows of delicious, lemony sunshine. I follow the recipe in The Joy of Cooking and substitute plain non-fat yogurt for the milk or cream. I feel that the yogurt adds a pleasant tang, which naturally harmonizes with the zing of lemon.

The taste of lemon reminds me of summertime, of all those times when the heat just begs to be quenched with refreshing, cool lemonade. Oddly, the taste of lemon is warming to me on a cold day. Not hot chili pepper-warming, but a sort of subtle, cleansing and stabilizing warmth that makes me glow from the inside out. Lemon is the taste of happiness.

And then there's the poppy seeds -- dark, mysterious, slightly earthy/nutty-tasting. Some say the poppy seeds are just there for texture and that they have no taste at all, but if you've ever had a poppy seed hamentashen, you know that's not true. Like all dark things, the flavor of poppy seeds stays somewhat underground -- hidden just beneath the surface of conscious taste (of course, the sweet darkness is more pronounced in a hamentashen, which measures the poppy seeds by the cup, not teaspoon). Of course, we all know that they are opiates; remember The Wizard of Oz? "Poppies . . . poppies will make them sleeeeep," coos the Wicked Witch of the West. Was that the extent of her magic, the worst she could do -- making people fall asleep in a bed of flowers? Doesn't really seem so dangerous . . . in fact, I'd say that getting snowed on without a winter coat on is probably less healthful than a nap.

So, like a fairy tale, lemon-poppy muffins mix together the dark and the light, the sleepy and the fully conscious.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins


2 c. flour
1 tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tbs. poppy seeds

2 large eggs
1 c. nonfat yogurt
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 - 1 stick butter, melted, warm, but not hot (hot butter will cook the eggs or be curdled by the lemon)*
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbs. lemon zest

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 and lightly spray a muffin pan with cooking oil.
Whisk the dry and wet ingredients separately in separate bowls. Pour the wet into the dry and mix lightly. Do not overmix, or the muffins will be too dense and spongey. Spoon into muffin cups; makes about 10-12.
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. To make the tops golden, turn off the heat for a minute before you take them out. Wait 2 or 3 minutes before removing from the cups. Eat as soon as possible.

* According the The Joy of Cooking, muffins that will be eaten right out of the oven are fine with 1/2 stick of butter, but if you intend to have them around for several hours or overnight, it's best to increase the butter by 2-4 tbs., for a total of 6-8 (8 tbs. is a stick of butter).

Ah, they're out now. I gave one each to a couple of housemates, and I've already eaten two myself! :) There's a few left; better get here quick!

Enjoy these muffins while listening to my "French Bistro" radio station at Pandora:

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