Saturday, December 26, 2015

Cheery Cherry Poppy Seed Muffins

...perfect for a leisurely winter morning

I love the peaceful quiet of a morning when I'm the first one awake and out of bed. There's a typical pattern to this solitary start: 

  • gaze south down the lake to see if The Mountain is visible, 
  • head downstairs to check out the action at the feeders and enjoy the comings and goings of the early arrivals - busy hummingbirds and songbirds, flickers and downy woodpeckers and two annoying, pesky bandit squirrels,
  • load the coffeepot for RL and settle in to savor my own cup of Irish Breakfast tea,
  • read or knit or just quietly enjoy the colors of a sunrise as it develops over Mercer Island.
This morning was perfect for all of that, but I fired up the oven instead. My stomach was growly and a baking project sounded appealing, something sweet but not too time-consuming or overly complicated. It was early, after all.

What do you bake when you crave a sweet bite in the morning but don't want to mess with the lengthy process of a yeasted dough? An quick bread or coffeecake would do, but this morning Cheery Cherry Poppy Seed Muffins sounded more appealing. These fruit-filled beauties are delicious with the added bonus of speed - they take less than an hour from start to finish.

We have enjoyed various versions of this Tyler Florence recipe; swapping dried cranberries for dried cherries, adding nuts, changing up the choice of citrus, substituting rosemary or lavender for the poppy seeds, etc. Today's version was a winner, a two-thumbs-up hit due to the addition of the frozen cherries. The whole cherries (defrosted frozen sour cherries) gave the muffins a surprising flavor boost and textural pop. 

Better than an alarm clock, the aroma of baking muffins wafted upstairs and roused RL. Fresh coffee and warm muffins created a perfect start to the day. Sweet and moist, the muffins were scrumptious without butter or jam. This recipe is a winner for family breakfasts, impromptu guests, or as part of a brunch menu. Yum!  

Cheery Cherry Poppy Seed Muffins
adapted from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen

makes 12 regular or 9 Texas-sized muffins

2 cups AP flour
1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup melted butter
1 Tablespoon poppy Seeds
Finely grated citrus zest (1 orange or 2 lemons, etc.)

1 cup dried cherries (tossed with a bit of flour)
1 cup frozen sour cherries, (defrosted, drained well & tossed with a bit of sugar and flour)optional 
Sugar to sprinkle on top

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Spray or grease muffin tins (9 Texas-size or 12 regular size cups).
  2. Use a large bowl and mix the dry ingredients until evenly combined.
  3. In a second bowl whisk the milk and eggs together; add the melted butter, poppy seeds and citrus zest.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold together until just combined. 
  5. Add the dried cherries (tossed with flour to avoid sinking to the bottom) and fold to distribute evenly throughout the batter.
  6. Ladle the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling only two-thirds full. Top each muffin with defrosted frozen cherries and press gently into the batter. Dust the surface with a sprinkle of sugar.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or just until a wooden tester comes out clean when inserted uno the center. Be careful not to overtake!
  8. Cool for 10-15 minutes in the muffin tins set on a baking rack. Enjoy warm or store cooled muffins in a covered container for a day or two, but fresh, warm muffins are always best, just sayin'.

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