Sunday, March 13, 2011

Muffin Madness: Lemon Curd Muffins

Lemons are great, just great. Ever since I was a kid I’ve enjoyed lemons. I believe it started when my brothers and I were playing Truth or Dare and I was dared to drink a spoonful of lemon juice concentrate. Much to their chagrin I helped myself to a second spoonful and savored the tartness. Later on my oldest brother Brian would take me over to his girlfriend’s house and she’d slice up lemons for me to chew on. I was really disappointed when they broke up. In middle school and high school I was the baker of all things sweet and my favorite thing to make (out of the box at that point) was lemon cake. I made a lot of lemon cake so I could eat a lot of lemon cake. It was a perfect cycle.

Despite my early taste for lemon juice concentrate, it wasn’t going to make an appearance in my muffins. I wanted to get a true sweet tart lemon flavor. Recently Andy’s mom sent us old issues of Cooks Illustrated and their Icebox Lemon Cheesecake hasn’t gotten out of my head. I read that it’s quite easy to make lemon curd and that really upped the lemon flavor. While perusing the grocery aisles I found lemon curd; however, all the ingredients (except the preservatives) were things I already had at home. Why buy something when I can make it for “free” at home? Also, if you’re not sure what lemon curd is, just think of it like lemon pudding. I think it may be the same as the bottom of lemon meringue pie.

Fresh lemon curd on the right

The amount ingredients in these muffins seems ridiculously small, compared to my previous experiments. I took that as a good sign though, the more lemon ingredients the more lemon flavor. A note on lemons, I’ve had bad luck with non-organic oranges being watery, flavorless and mostly pith. I assume lemons might have the same issue, so I went with organic lemons. This is also a good choice anytime you’re zesting a fruit. If there are pesticides on the skin of the fruit, in they go into your batter. Of course, wash and dry your lemons well.

Juicing fruit is fun and I managed to get a lot of juice out of 2 lemons. It was enough for making curd and the muffins. As I have never used curd before it didn’t work out the way I was imagining. In my mind the lemon curd would be a gooey-tart center, tasted in the first bite. In reality it incorporated into the muffin and became a layer of lemon that popped! It was delicious, but after realizing how the curd worked, I would have preferred to stir all of my fresh curd into the muffin mixture. It would have used up all of my curd and would have been good throughout the muffin.

The lemon curd "center"

Another problem was that there wasn’t enough batter again! I didn’t realize this ahead of time and so instead of making 10 muffins, I made 12 half size muffins. Diet muffins, we’ll say. So more flour is necessary, along with more leavening (and it was increased! This is a never-ending problem). A lemon glaze was proposed and dismissed after I used up all my lemon juice and didn’t want to cut up another lemon. My organic lemons performed splendidly, so I highly recommend using organic, it’s not that many lemons. There was a layering of lemon flavor and it really stood out.

The curd was just barely topped but is ready to go in the oven.

I adore my little muffins, but what’s the official word? Official taster, Andy, declared that the muffins didn’t need a glaze. Despite his “non-preference” for lemon-flavored things Andy said that he “could eat a lot of these.” Which is really all I need.

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