Lemon Lavender Muffins

Autumn is certainly here, and with it come cooler temperatures and less sunlight. My lavender plant has been the most affected by this — I’ve watched it go from vigorously overgrown to shriveled and dead within the last few weeks. Luckily, I harvested and froze a batch of leaves before this happened, so have some fresh lavender to use this winter. I didn’t get too many blooms out of it, because I started it a few months later than typical. Next year, I’ll definitely pick up a plant the minute they can come out in the spring and give it a sunnier position by the window, so I’ll get a nice big bunch of dried flowers before it keels over from the cold.

In memoriam to my late lavender plant, I made a batch of tasty lemon lavender muffins. Lavender and citrus go together so beautifully. We have quite a few lemons rolling around, since Casa Kerfuffle was recently struck with a bad case of the sniffles so we’ve had honey lemon tea pouring out of our ears. These muffins, incidentally, are perfect with a cup of hot tea in the morning — they have a bright taste that wakes you right up. The lavender note is very light, and you can’t even really place it unless you concentrate hard. It had almost an anise note to it in the last muffin I ate.

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I used Fresh From the Oven’s Lemon Lavender Coffee Cake recipe,  which she adapted from the Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook. A really good looking book, by the way, which I’ve just noticed is available in Kindle edition. I might very well be ordering that right after I’ve finished writing this post…

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Ingredients list! 1 tablespoon dried lavender (she uses dried lavender buds, which are the parts of the plant typically used for baking. however, since I had a container of leaves and almost no buds this year, I used about a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh…ly defrosted… lavender leaves instead. the leaves are more fragrant than the buds, but dried is also more concentrated than fresh, so it evens out in taste, I think). 4 cups of all purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 sticks of softened unsalted butter, 2 ¼ cups white sugar, 3 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest (it took until now for me to realize that I don’t actually have a grater in this new kitchen, dammit. so I used the finely processed frozen calamondin rind that I’d saved from when I’d harvested my calamondins earlier this summer), 5 eggs (which were shy and didn’t get into the picture), ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 large lemon gave me enough juice for both the batter and icing), 1 cup plain sour cream.

Ingredients list for the optional but very yummy lemony glaze: 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (I used my pulverized calamondin rinds again), 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon dried lavender (I left out the lavender entirely for the icing).

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Lemon juicing! I managed to get my hands on some seriously juicy lemons this time — they had very thin rinds and were super plump. I got around 1/3 of a cup from it, which was the perfect amount to cover both the batter and icing for this recipe.

Preheat your oven to 325F (about 160ish C). Oil or line your baking tins.

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Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Admittedly, I often ignore the sifting part of a recipe because I don’t always have a sieve on hand. And because my mother used to make me sift flour for her as a child, so I still consider it a horrible chore. There was a sieve sitting right next to the sink, though, so I had no excuse this time. It really does help with the overall fluffiness in a baked good, though.

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Add in your lavender. Here is mine before I started chopping it up finely with a pair of scissors. Once the lavender is in, toss together the dry mixture with your hands and set it aside.

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In another bowl, combine your butter, sugar, and lemon zest. If you have a stand mixer, like the original poster does, by all means use that. If you merely dream of having a stand mixer but are currently unable to financially justify getting one, like yours truly, a bowl and a hand mixer will do the job as well. Notice that my butter got… erm… kinda melty. I’d meant to just soften it up just a bit, but got distracted while it was on the stove so… yeah.  This just means that my muffins will turn out a bit denser, since liquid butter doesn’t give the batter as many air pockets as properly creamed softened butter does. But I actually sifted my flour this time, so it evens out! 😉

The original poster says to use the paddle attachment on medium speed for 5 to 8 minutes, to cream the mixture (get it all smooth and pale and fluffy, almost like frosting). If you are doing this with a hand mixer, use the normal wire beaters to get in the most air.

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Just a closeup of my frozen and pulverized calamondin rind. I used 3/4 of it for the batter and the remaining bit for the frosting. It added a tart grapefruity taste to the overall recipe which was really nice.

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Add in the eggs, mixing them in one by one so that each is fully incorporated before adding another. You should always add eggs slowly to make sure that they don’t curdle the mixture. Notice that because my butter was melty, there isn’t so much creaming action going on. Hopefully, you did it right with solid butter and have a much fluffier looking mixture. Also notice that I am using my bread dough hooks instead of my beater attachments, because those were in the dishwasher at the time. Dough hook attachments kinda suck at beating air into a mixture, don’t use them 😉 I ended up going back in with a whisk to get more air in after I’d done the heavy mixing with the machine.

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After the eggs are in, dribble in your lemon juice and mix for another minute.

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Scrape down the sides to make sure there aren’t any stray unmixed lumps, and give the whole thing about 30 seconds of mixing to get everything worked together.

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At this point, the original poster says to add small amounts of the flour mixture and the sour cream alternately to the batter. Since there wasn’t that much sour cream, folded it in with my spatula all in one go.

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Then I slowly added 1/2 cup amounts of the flour mixture in, stirring carefully by hand each time just until it incorporated into the batter. Muffin batter doesn’t need to be stirred until smooth — just fold in the dry stuff until there aren’t any obvious lumps and you’re pretty much good to go. The point of the slow and steady is to maintain air volume as much as possible.

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Pour the batter into your prepared pans — this was enough to make two dozen muffins, but I only had one muffin tin so I poured the rest of the batter into a cake pan. Fill the muffin cups almost to the brim so that they will get all fluffy and plump on the top as they bake.

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Bake on the center rack 35 minutes. My muffins were ready by then. The cake needed an additional 10 minutes. Give or take depending on your own oven, but definitely start checking at the 35 minute mark.

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The tops should be golden brown and the center should come out clean when you poke a chopstick (or skewer. whatever) in the center. Let cool before glazing.

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Meanwhile, I let the rest of my calamondin rind melt, adding in the two tablespoons of lemon juice to help it along.

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Rather than make a mess by pour it all into a bowl and adding sugar, I just tossed the 1 cup of powdered sugar directly into the bag, zipped it shut, and squeezed at the mixture with my hands until it was smooth.

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Instant bag of icing! I then just cut off the tip of one of the bottom corners and squeezed out the icing onto each muffin. It kept everything very tidy and was a nifty way to control the amount of icing going on each piece.

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Finished product 🙂 As usual, we like to pop our muffins in the fridge overnight to firm them up a bit. It’s especially nice with these because the glazed topping gets slightly crispy and is more fun to bite into. Thank you so much, Fresh from the Oven, for sharing this awesome recipe! All bakey goodness goes to her and Macrina Bakery, all stupid noob screwups go to me. The fact that they turned out yummy despite my fumbles just points to what an excellent recipe it is.

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