When life gives you lemons

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In addition to all things fennel-related, I also have strong feelings for anything involving lemon and poppy seeds. As a child I wasn’t a fan of lemony concoctions but, as with everything, my tastes have changed as I have become older and now I love the freshness that a bit of lemon zest brings to a blueberry and lemon cake, how lemon zests cuts through the richness of these chewy lemon cookies from How Sweet Eats (I can highly recommend these by the way – I baked them for my reading group some time ago, adding some poppy seeds just because, and what little was left after everyone had gone home was quickly decimated by Alessandro) and indeed how great a contrast the lemon zest is to the sugary icing on the lemon poppy seed muffins from a multinational coffee chain whose name shall not be mentioned.

In all seriousness though, however much I try to fight it, some days I wake up tired and cranky after yet another late night in the office, I make a mad dash to the bus stop (as it is already far too late to walk in) and then spent the entire journey squished between other tired and cranky people working in the city (unfortunately with varying views on personal hygiene) … the only thing able to restore my sanity on those days is a large iced coffee. Invariably once I have stepped inside my local coffee chain whose name shall not be mentioned, I am lured in by their pastries. Pretending to be healthy, I opt for the “skinny” version of their lemon and poppy seed muffins, full well knowing that a half pounder of a muffin covered in icing is anything but “skinny” or healthy.

But, we are only human and while most days I happily munch on my porridge or my mum’s homemade sourdough bread with peanut butter and jam, some days I just feel like having s pastry for breakfast. To stop me from spending all my hard earned cash at the coffee chain whose name shall not be mentioned and to not undo all the time spent working out at the gym, I decided a while ago to whip a batch of pastries or loaf cakes like banana bread on a Sunday to munch on for the rest of the week and this week I felt inspired to make my own version of a somewhat healthier lemon and poppy seed muffin.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, my way (makes 12 smallish muffins)

Ingredients

300g wholemeal flour
3 tsp baking powder
125g sugar
2 tbsp poppy seeds
Zest from one lemon, organic or unwaxed
100g yoghurt
100ml milk
2 eggs
110g butter

For the icing
2 tbsp icing sugar
Juice from 1/2 lemon
A few drops of water

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Directions

The key for light and fluffy muffins is to not overwork the dough (so unlike bread recipes you don’t want to work the gluten in the flour at all here). Muffin recipes are therefore typically divided into three steps only, mixing the dry and liquid ingredients separately and then quickly combining the two.

1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius.

2. Mix the flour with the baking powder, sugar, poppy seeds and lemon zest. Set aside.

3. Melt the butter and whisk together with the eggs, the milk and the yoghurt.

4. Carefully combine the flour mix with the egg mix using a fork. Don’t worry if there are lumps in your dough, these will disappear while your muffins are baking.

5. Using two spoons, fill the dough into 12 muffin tins. I used silicon ones which don’t need greasing, otherwise I would recommend quickly greasing the tins.

6. Bake for ca. 15 minutes until the muffins have risen and are golden. Let cool in the tins for at least 5 minutes.

7. Mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice and a few drops of water. Drizzle over the muffins with a spoon.

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Notes

So why are these better for you? Well, first of all, they are much smaller than regular muffins but the wholemeal flour will keep you full for longer. They have less sugar than regular muffins but the lemon makes up for that in terms of flavour. And while they also have less fat, the use of yoghurt keeps the dough moist and fluffy. Oh and while I did drizzle some icing over the muffins, it is nothing like the full body bath the muffins at the coffee chain which shall not be mentioned get to enjoy (so you won’t get sticky fingers eating these either!).

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