Lemon Black Cherry Muffins

 muffins2More sweet cherry-lovin: a moist, lemony whole grain muffin with the pop! of fresh sweet black cherries.  My first thought on tasting these muffins was: WOW!  A literal taste explosion – this is not a cozy, down-home, Grandma’s apple pie kind of recipe.  This is WOW. A wake-up-your-taste-buds, can’t-believe-how-good-it-is, let-me-freeze-half-this-batch-right-now-before-I-eat-the-whole-thing kind of recipe.

These muffins are indulgent – what with the lemon zest, lemon juice and lemon extract, you might as well be munching on flatbreads and cherries, lounging under a shady tree in a lemon orchard whilst cool Mediterranean breezes soothe your muffin-baking-fevered brow.  But, short of traveling to Greece and trying to look up the Greek word for “cherries” in your little pocket Greek-English dictionary, you could bake these muffins.  It’s practically the same thing.

Adapted from Fresh-Lemon Muffins in Bread by Beth Hensperger

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Lemon Black Cherry Muffins

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 and 1/4 cups (10 and 1/8 oz) whole grain all-purpose flour (white winter wheat)
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar + extra for sprinkling
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • Grated zest of 2 large lemons
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz or one stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons) OR lemon juice + cherry juice combination (see Methods)
  • 2 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 eggs
  • Scant 1 and 1/2 cups rinsed, stemmed sweet black cherries, to yield 1 cup pitted, coarsely chopped cherries + juice (chopped just before adding to the batter)

METHODS

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt and lemon zest.
  3. In a medium bowl lightly beat eggs, butter, 1/3 cup of lemon juice and lemon extract.
  4. Lightly coat a muffin tin with canola oil spray or use paper muffin cups. 
  5. Grab your trusty cherry pitter. (What do you mean you haven’t bought one yet?  Have you not been paying attention?  Go out and get one right now – turn the oven off first.  I’ll wait.)  Pit and chop the cherries. Five or six pulses in the food processor works well for me.  cherrypittingIf your cherries are very ripe and juicy, you’ll yield lots of juice from the chopping; you can either add this to the wet ingredients, to incorporate a slightly pink hue and more cherry flavor to your muffins, or you can drain it off and enjoy in a glass of seltzer or champagne.  If you choose to use it in your muffins, drain the juice into a 1/3 cup measure; top up with lemon juice, or reserve any extra cherry juice. (I’ve made these with and without the cherry juice, and I like it best with; the cherry juice adds an extra pizazz to the flavor and nicely pink color). Add to the butter-egg-juice mixture and stir in.
  6. Fold wet and dry ingredients together until just moistened (I like a plastic spatula for this); then add chopped cherries to batter.  Fold 2 or 3 more times to incorporate, then mound batter into muffin tins, filling to the top.  Sprinkle a bit of turbinado sugar on top of each muffin for added crunch.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the muffin edges are browned and the middles are springy to the touch.  Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then remove to cool completely on wire racks.

Yields about 10 muffins.muffins

OPTIONS

  1. The original recipe calls for 1 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour; as usual, Wild Hive flour does not absorb as much liquid, so I increased the flour in order to give the muffins structure and rise.  If you are using regular white flour (and if so, why? have I taught you nothing?), adjust the flour down to 1.75 cups.  King Arthur whole white wheat flour would be a good substitute here if you cannot find local flour; try it out with 2 cups to start, then add 2 tbsp of flour once or twice during the folding/combine stage if the batter does not seem stiff enough (it should resemble a really thick pancake batter, stiff enough to mound on a spoon, but not so dry that it takes dozens of passes with the spatula to incorporate all the flour).  Don’t overmix the batter though, or it will become stiff and the muffins will be dense instead of springy.
  2. The original recipe also called for a lemon glaze to be added when the muffins are just out of the oven, while cooling in the pan.  I think these muffins are so lemony that adding a lemon glaze is gilding the lily, but a cherry glaze seems like an interesting twist: using the reserved cherry juice from your chopped cherries, measure out 1/4 cup juice (or thereabouts), add an equal measure of sugar, and heat in a small saucepan until sugar is just dissolved (do not boil). Once muffins are out of the oven, pierce each muffin in a few places with a cake tester; pour warm glaze over the muffins.  Allow to absorb for 5-10 minutes while cooling in the pan, then remove muffins and cool completely.  This can also be done using lemon juice, if you simply cannot get enough lemony flavor!
  3. Any other fresh or frozen berry would work in this recipe as well; raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc.  Strawberries are a bit too watery for muffins, I find, but other than that, I would experiment.  If using frozen berries/cherries, allow to thaw completely, drain off juice, and either add it to the liquid ingredients or reserve for glaze or another use.

STORE

About 2 days at room temperature; store in a bowl or platter, covered by a clean kitchen towel.  Storing in plastic or an airtight container will cause the muffins to sweat, lose their crisp outsides, and spoil earlier.  Muffins, in general, freeze well for up to 3 months.

SEASON

Cherries are in season in early summer, but this recipe can easily be made with frozen, thawed cherries, or indeed any fresh or frozen berry, so can be enjoyed year-round.

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