Thursday, February 10, 2011

When Life Gives You Lemons

So, coworker Andrea is preggers with twins. She has recently been craving lemon flavored treats. Unfortunately, I'm finding that pregnancy cravings are contagious, to me a non-prego, so I gladly offered to make my grandma's lemon muffins in an effort to make the pregnant lady happy. This was definitely not a problem. I brought them in Monday, and for some reason the whole office has been in a good mood all week!

I grew up with a lemon tree in my front yard, and before my grandparents moved to Elk Grove, they had one in their yard in Redwood City as well. One of my favorite things to do as a kid was pick lemons, slice them in half, and suck out the sour lemon juice. I don't have a lot of memories of their RWC house, since they sold it when I was six or seven, but I do remember puckering my cheeks in my grandma's kitchen, while slurping a sticky lemon. My family often likes to bring this up, however, I am not ashamed of my lemon love!

Grandma Grover, chowin down on a burger!

One of my fondest memories of my Grandma Grover would be walking into her Elk Grove house, after two hours of "are we there yets" driving from the Bay Area, and smelling fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and lemon muffins. Sometimes, only the cookies would be baked, but we always brought lemons since their new house didn't have a tree, which, while we were out exploring the latest toys and creatures residing in their yard, my grandma would whip up into her famous muffins. We'd come back in hot, dusty, and dirty and the aroma of the lemon muffins fresh out of the oven (paired with the lovely air conditioning) would refresh us!

My grandma passed away about a decade ago, and since, I have never encountered a muffin just like these. Until I baked them myself for the first time, it never dawned on me the oddity of pairing lemon with cinnamon, but some how it just works. The cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top is what makes these muffins special.

Now, I know this is a blog spotlighting cupcakes, but we don't discriminate around these parts (muffins have feelings too you know):
First up, Gather Your Gear (and preheat your oven to 375*):

After gathering your gear, you may want to do a little more prep - such as zesting and juicing your lemons. I used two lemons (from my parents tree, I like the ones that are just about to fall off the branch, usually a deep yellow almost orange color)for the zest, and two and a half for the juice.

Kitchen Tip: Throw the squeezed lemons down your garbage disposal (and run it) to make your kitchen smell lemony fresh! And squeeze the juice from the remaining half of a lemon into your water to make your day a little more cheery!

Next, you'll need to separate your eggs. I put the whites in my KitchenAid, and whipped them up until stiff. Yolks in another bowl, for now. I whisked them together, but I don't think that is necessary:

Combine your dry ingredients - flour, salt, and baking powder. Sift. (No pic, but you can use your imagination here).

Now, like Jess, I am a Kitchen-Aid-a-Holic, so I removed the egg whites from my mixer, and placed them in a separate bowl (see above) so I could use it again, that means another dish to wash, and washing your mixing bowl twice, but it's worth it. You will probably want to do this too. Cream the butter and sugar...and try really hard not taste it. Because you will just want to eat it by the spoonful. Add in the yolks. Then alternate adding in the flour mixture and the lemon juice. Your batter is going to be so fragrant and delicious at this point!

And here comes the fun part, FOLDING! I dumped in the whites and the lemon rind and grabbed my spatula:

Kitchen Tip: I wish someone had told me this years ago, but if you have a KitchenAid mixer, you need to get yourself the matching KitchenAid spatula - this kind (or whatever color you choose) - they curve EXACTLY to the bowl so you can get every last bit of batter out, and have a flat tip which scrapes around that little bump in the middle of the bottom. Seriously, it will change your baking life. It also makes a great gift for KitchenAid newbies.

Once everything is combined, spray your muffin tins. My rule for lemon muffins is NO MUFFIN PAPERS. Grandma Grover never used them, so I don't either (just for lemon muffins, at least). I used my cookie scoop to fill the pans, about a heaping scoopful for each muffin (I used the double recipe portions, and was able to make 20.

And the last step before you bake, is what makes these muffins unique - the Cinnamon Sugar Sprinkle. Combine 4 tablespoons of sugar with a half teaspoon of cinnamon, and using a spoon (or by hand) sprinkle the mixture over each muffin. Feel free to be generous. I actually encourage it. The Cinnamon Sugar will make a crackly, flaky, crusty top when it bakes - it's the best part.

Bake at 375* for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let cool for a few minutes and remove the muffins from the pan.

(Don't forget to savor the pucker that happens in the sides of your cheeks with each bite.)

Thirty Hand Made Days


  1. What if I don't have a mixer?? Can I still make? I do have a kitchen aid spatula though...wait no I don't. The only good things about my kitchenware are my pots, my wine glasses, and my plates/bowls. I will remedy after I get iphone 5 in june.

  2. Can you get one already?!? If you get a mixer I'll hook you up with a spatula! Hahaha!

  3. YUM! Definitely trying these. P.S. You are a pre-approved lemon picker if you ever need them.

  4. Yes, I will make them for you one of these days! Thank you for the pre-approval - I totally would NOT take your lemons if I hadn't been. ;) JK! Hahah! I may take you up on that - you are a lot closer than my parents house and sometimes I forget to grab some!

  5. Oh, I love lemons...gonna have to try this.:)

  6. Mmm. Me too! I want to make another batch right now! If you end up making them you'll have to let me know what you think! :)