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Upside-down muffins feature winter's best citrus

Recipe:  Meyers require a light hand in baking


Lemond slice muffins in tin
The muffins are flipped after baking, revealing the Meyer lemon slices on the
bottom. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

Any bright, ripe citrus is welcome in winter, but I have a special place in my heart for Meyer lemons. Believed to be a cross between a mandarin and a lemon, a Meyer lemon is sweeter, more golden and more floral than a regular lemon. The relative lack of pith means Meyers can be eaten whole (OK, spit out the seeds), though I usually try to use the fruit as accents in savory dishes. It makes wonderful vinaigrette, for example.

However I haven't baked with Meyers as much as I'd like. I decided to change that when the crop ripened on my tiny backyard Meyer lemon tree.

But the baking recipes I came across were so loaded with sugar and other ingredients that I had to wonder if the creators had trusted the Meyer lemon's flavor. The fruit is sweet-tart; it doesn't need syrup AND glaze to make a delicious treat.

So I went back to an old cookbook, the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library "Muffins and Quick Breads," which has several citrus recipes. I decided to remake a recipe for Lemon Slice Muffins -- designed for tart lemons -- to feature my precious Meyers.

This recipe is a bit fussy, so you can skip the whole lemon-slice part if you want and just make the muffin batter. (I'd sprinkle some zest on top, in that case.) But if you love Meyers and want to show them off at brunch,  do try the muffins with the (lightly) sugared whole lemon slices baked on the bottom. Flipped over, they are like little spots of sunshine on a foggy day.

3 Meyer lemons
Meyer lemons are more golden than tart lemons
and have thinner skin.
Meyer lemon slice muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

3 Meyer lemons, washed and dried

Butter or cooking spray for pan

1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for pan (alternatively, 2-3 teaspoons coarse sugar just for the pan)

1/2 tablespoon water

6 tablespoons butter

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, room temperature

1 cup milk, room temperature

Instructions:

Lemon slices on a green board
Cut thin slices of lemon and be sure to pop out any seeds.


Saving out the largest of the 3 lemons, grate the zest from the other 2. Squeeze half of one of the zested lemons to measure 1/2 tablespoon juice.

Combine the zest, the 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 tablespoon water and the 1/2 tablespoon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add the 6 tablespoons butter and stir another minute so the butter melts. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter or grease a standard 12-cup muffin pan. Sprinkle about 1/8 teaspoon granulated sugar or coarse sugar in the bottom of each cup.

Cut the stem end from the remaining lemon, then slice the rest of it very thin into 12 slices. Place one slice in each muffin cup, removing any seeds you come across. (I cut the large slices in half and overlapped them, but those didn't stick to the muffins as well, so I recommend just stuffing the larger slices whole into the bottom of the cups.)

Make the batter: Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a larger bowl, whisk together the reserved zest-butter mixture, the eggs and the milk until well-combined. Stir in the dry ingredients just until blended; small lumps are OK.

2 muffins on a blue plate
Meyer lemon slice muffins make a delicious brunch bread or
afternoon snack.
Divide the batter among the 12 muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in one comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Remove the pan to a cooling rack. Let cool for a minute or two, then flip the muffins over with a knife or thin spatula. (Alternatively, put the cooling rack on top and flip the whole pan over at the same time.) You might have to retrieve a lemon slice or two, but they'll stick right back on. Serve muffins warm.

Here are links to other Meyer lemon recipes we've published the past 3 years:

Meyer lemon and herb potatoes

Meyer lemon baked French toast

Pasta with Meyer lemon and herbs

Quarantinis

Lemon almond cornmeal cake











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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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