I bought a muffin pan a few months ago, excited to get my hands and face dirty with a simpler type of pastry. I threw some random things together in a bowl, tasted the batter, had my ooh-la-la moment, and divided it evenly among the muffin cups in the pan. I decided on a reasonable wattage at which to toast the muffins, cleaned up the kitchen, and popped them in the oven. I went to close the door…and it wouldn’t close. The pan was too big to fit in my toaster oven. I turned it around, pushed it backwards, pulled it forwards, taught it to salsa dance, gave it some encouraging words, and yet it still wouldn’t fit. It was only about one centimeter too wide, too.
I was so close…yet so far away. So I decided to just buy a new one and sell this one, which had so far never really been used. I searched high and low, and then really really low because sometimes the best tools are hidden on the bottom shelf. I searched offline, online, and even in the sea, but that wasn’t very fruitful. Fish don’t particularly like muffins, they told me.
I couldn’t find ANYTHING. It seemed like the muffin pan I had was the smallest option feasible, and still it was too big for my toaster oven. Oh, the inhumanity. So, I gave up on that dream and decided I would make muffins over winter vacation, while I could use a large American oven and large American muffin pans.
We may have our problems, but our ovens are not among them.
A friend of mine who also bakes recommended finding as basic a muffin recipe as I could, and going from there to make my own, instead of sweating over someone else’s complicated Pumpkin Spice Latte Peppermint Chocolate Apple Kale Muffins, or something, so I searched online for “muffin recipe basic.” I made one batch with cinnamon and chocolate chips, and then decided to get a little crazy with it, and tried adding lemon zest, whole wheat flour, pecans, and white chocolate chips.
Years ago, I stumbled upon a Lemon Flax Muffin recipe that I can’t find anymore, and I made it over and over because they were among the best muffins I’d ever had. It was those muffins that inspired me to add lemon zest to these. I try to stay somewhat seasonal, so blueberry muffins were out of the question, but citrus fruits are in season all year round. The original muffins were fairly sweet and light, and I figured the lemon would be pretty intense, so I used the whole wheat flour to balance out the sweet and acidic flavors. However, whole wheat flour is a lot drier than white flour, and if I’d substituted one for one, the muffins would have been like stones. I substituted 1 cup of all-purpose flour for 3/4 c of whole wheat, making the batter approximately half of each, and it worked! They’re full and flavorful, but not dense or dry at all. They’re particularly good with nuts or chocolate added, but I highly recommend nuts regardless of what else you add, to balance out the sweetness a little more.
And naturally, lemon is among my favorite flavors. If I could, I would make them with yuzu in Japan, but as we’ve already discovered…that’s not happening.
lemon (semi-)whole wheat muffins (with pecans)
makes 1 dozen
1 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 c milk
1 large egg
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400 F/200 C, and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, combine flours, sugar, salt, and baking powder. In a separate large bowl, beat the egg, milk, oil, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and lemon zest, until fully combined.
Add the dry mixture to the wet and combine quickly, until fully mixed. Fold in pecans and any other ingredients you’d like to add.
Using a cookie scoop, divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. They’ll burn quickly, so take them out a little early.