Monday, October 8, 2007


I didn't like these muffins when I first tasted them warm from the oven. But after they sat a bit, they improved and are really good, even if they look anemic. The topping is especially good. The lemon-nut-sugar crunch is the introduction to the light lemony muffin with the plumped berries that have been soaked in Limoncello. However, I did put ginger in the batter and I can't taste it at all. Maybe that's good because I think there's enough going on. I will leave the ginger out next time and put more lemon zest in. Even though I really like these muffins, I think they will be even better with 2 eggs instead of 3, 1 Tbsp. more lemon zest and a little less baking powder and soda. (If you don't want to use 1-1/2 cups of sour cream, you can substitute 1 cup of low-fat milk for part of the sour cream, and you should still get a nice muffin. Another option would be to use a 6-oz. container of lemon yogurt plus enough milk to make 1-1/2 cups. I used all sour cream because I had a carton in my fridge nearing expiration date; otherwise I would have used the lemon yogurt/milk combo) My changes are reflected in the recipe below.
Limoncello Berry Muffins

INGREDIENTS: 1 cup dried mixed berries
1/2 cup Limoncello (see my post on homemade Limoncello)
1/2 cup butter
3 cups all-purpose flour + 1/4 cup for berries
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups sour cream (I used Breakstone low-fat)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. pure lemon extract
1/2 tsp. pure orange extract
Topping: 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
4 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS: Heat the Limoncello in a 1-quart saucepan till it boils. Add the berries, cover the pot and remove from heat. Let the berries plump for at least 1/2 hour or longer. After the berries are plumped and have absorbed half the Limoncello, put them in a strainer over a bowl or measuring cup to drain them and separate them from the Limoncello-berry juice. Melt the butter in the microwave on high in a medium-sized bowl (about 30-40 seconds -- it does not have to be completely melted, as small bits of butter will continue to melt after you remove the bowl from the oven.) Prepare the muffin pans for baking by greasing and flouring them or spraying them with flour-added non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Have all ingredients at room temperature before mixing.

Measure the dry ingredients, including the lemon zest, into a large mixing bowl and whisk together well to combine. Remember you have lemon zest in there, so be sure to whisk well so that you don't get clumps of lemon zest in your muffins! (Measure the flour by first aerating it with the whisk and then lightly spooning into measuring cup and using a spatula to level off cup.) Take the now drained but still wet berries and toss them with 1/4 cup flour -- just put everything in a plastic baggie and smoosh them around till they absorb all the flour.

The butter should not be blistering hot now -- warm is ok -- and you can whisk the eggs into the butter, one at a time, till everything is smooth. Add the Limoncello-berry liquid, whisk again; then add the sour cream, vanilla, lemon and orange flavors and and whisk till no lumps remain. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquids all at once. Give a few good whisks -- don't try to get all the lumps out. Add the berries and gently whisk once. Place 1/4 cup batter in each of the prepared muffin wells (less if you are using mini muffin tins of course). Make a topping by combining lemon zest, chopped nuts and sugar. Top each muffin with about 1/2 tsp. of the mix. Place pans in oven and immediately reduce heat to 375 degrees F. Bake for about 13-15 minutes for dark or coated pans and 17-19 minutes for shiny pans. Mini muffin tins will take less time. Use a toothpick test to be sure muffins are done. Insert in center -- if it comes out almost clean, they are done. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then they should release easily. Finish cooling on rack. Yield: 18 muffins

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