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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


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


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


Lemon almond cornmeal cake


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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