Spring is here – and there’s no holding me down!
Here in Michigan, it’s not uncommon for thick layers of snow this time of year… so with March temperatures at a whopping 84f. degrees, I’m rightfully a little perturbed. It’s supposed to cool down to a (still above average) 60-something over the weekend, which I have to say I’m looking forward to. I’m not ready to resign my oven mitts and baking to the swelter. Not yet!
On the wings of warm weather, however, has come an early bloom – magnolia trees and daffodils everywhere I look.
When I was a kid, I always knew it was spring when the crocuses sprung up underfoot. The back yard of the house I grew up in was wrapped in lilacs, walls of purple that filled my vision. The smell was intoxicating. Here at The Boyfriend’s house, you can only imagine what nostalgia filled my lungs when I first discovered that it, too, is surrounded by lilacs. I can’t wait for them to bloom again this year.
With so many warm memories riding on this sunshine, I had to make something to celebrate it – heat be damned, I was turning on the oven!
One of my childhood favorites was the always classic Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin – and to this day, I cannot bring myself to pass up a slice of lemon poppyseed pound cake, or cookie, or anything else reminiscent of such things.
Here, I decided to make a couple small changes, using chia seeds instead of poppy seeds for a boost of omega-3s, and Meyer lemons. These little jewels of citrus are optional, of course, but are sweeter and brighter than regular lemons and add a special touch. On another note, they’re perfect for making lemon curd… which would go perfectly with these muffins! But that’s for another time.
Packed full of sunshine, these little muffins are sheer smile-inducing goodness. Perfect for sharing and potlucking, or brightening up an Easter celebration… or for no reason at all!
Turning on the oven was so worth it.
Meyer Lemon Chia Seed Muffins
(Recipe adapted from Joanne Chang’s Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf recipe in her incredible book ‘Flour’)
2 cups cake flour (leveled, not packed)
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp. table salt)
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 3 TBSP unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup heavy cream or whole milk, room temperature
3 TBSP Meyer lemon zest (or regular lemon zest)
1 TBSP fresh Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice)
3 TBSP chia seeds (or poppy seeds)
1 vanilla bean, seeds of (or 1/8th tsp. vanilla paste)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
For the glaze:
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350f. (180c.), and line your muffin or cupcake tins. (Alternatively, you can spray/grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan, as that’s what the recipe was originally intended for).
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt – give it a stir to make sure everything is evenly combined, and set aside.
Melt the butter and let it stand for a minute or two, so that it’s warm but not hot. Add the cream, lemon zest and juice, chia seeds, vanilla, and vanilla extract. Stir to combine. The mixture should be thick, like a pancake batter – if the butter begins to solidify, warm it in 10 second intervals in the microwave. Set aside.
Using a hand or stand mixer, beat together the sugar and eggs. You want the yolks to go from deep yellow to light, fluffy, and pale. After 4-5 minutes the mixture will seem like a heavy custard, and your beaters should leave trails as they spin. Keep beating for another couple minutes.
Using a flexible rubber spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the beaten eggs and sugar. Fold by swooping the spatula down through the center, and coming up the side of the bowl – be sure to scrape along the bottom. Once most of the flour is incorporated, add half, and then all, of the lemon/butter/cream mixture, folding in between additions. Fold just until everything is combined, being sure not to over-mix.
Evenly distribute the batter into your muffins or cupcake tins (or pour the entire batch into a greased 9×5 loaf pan). This should make approximately 20 regular-sized muffins, or 60-70 minis.
Place your muffins on the middle rack of the oven, and reduce the temperature to 325f. (160c.).
Bake for 20-22 minutes, rotating the pan half-way through to ensure even baking. For minis, bake for 16-18 minutes, or until golden on top and a cake tester or tooth-pic inserted in the center comes out clean. (Or, for a loaf, bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the top begins to turn golden).
Return the oven temperature to 350f. (180c.) between batches.
Let the muffins rest for 1-2 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
For the glaze:
In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and lemon juice to a simmer, stirring just until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.
Brush the lemon syrup over the tops of the still warm muffins. After brushing all of them once, you should have plenty of syrup to go back and make a second, or even third, pass. Letting this soak into the cakes is key to the overall experience, so don’t skimp!
Serve fresh and warm, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a few days.