Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins For Oscar Wilde

We are back with another edition of Eat This Book!

As I mentioned in my last Eat This Book post (featuring lardo pizza), I like to read. And I especially like to read authors that work in nonsensical, humorous banter that is seemingly off topic.

Enter Oscar Wilde, who might be the champion of that – he certainly gets a prize, anyway. And he gets another prize for expert lounging, as demonstrated in the photo below.

And while we're on the topic of lounging, I can't think of a better lounge food than muffins. Wouldn't you agree?

When I read "The Importance of Being Earnest" back in the day (I can't even remember which day right now) I nearly hurt myself laughing over the muffin scene. Never read it? That's a shame. Here are the highlights:

Jack:  How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.

Algernon:  Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner.  The butter would probably get on my cuffs.  One should always eat muffins quite calmly.  It is the only way to eat them.

Jack:  I say it’s perfectly heartless your eating muffins at all, under the circumstances.

Algernon:  When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing that consoles me...  At the present moment I am eating muffins because I am unhappy. Besides, I am particularly fond of muffins.  [Rising.]

Jack:  [Rising.]  Well, that is no reason why you should eat them all in that greedy way. [Takes muffins from Algernon.]

Algernon:  [Offering tea-cake.]  I wish you would have tea-cake instead.  I don’t like tea-cake. Jack, you are at the muffins again!  I wish you wouldn’t.  There are only two left.  [Takes them.]  I told you I was particularly fond of muffins.

Jack:  But I hate tea-cake.

Algernon:  Why on earth then do you allow tea-cake to be served up for your guests?  What ideas you have of hospitality!

In honor of Jack, Algernon and of course Oscar, I give you Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins with Lemon Sugar (bonus lemon sugar recipe below).

I will say this about these muffins:

1. Jack and Algernon would certainly argue over them.

2. They are WAY better than tea cake.

3. They are the perfect hand-held size for lounging.

4. They are easy to remove from your cuffs, should you get a little exuberant while eating them.

What You Need:

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

2/3 cup lemon sugar (see recipe below)

2 large eggs, separated

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Grated zest of two lemons

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease 10 standard muffin cups with butter or non-stick spray or line with paper cup liners. I like using those silicone muffin molds.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed (or you can use a food processor), cream the butter and sugar (lemon sugar, if you are using it) until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, poppy seeds, lemon zest and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk, then the lemon juice and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

In a large bowl, using the mixer with CLEAN beaters, beat the egg whites just until they form soft peaks (which means they will curl over at the top and form a "wave").

Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the batter until blended.

Spoon the batter into each muffin cup, filling them 3/4 full. Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with some lemon sugar.

Bake until golden, dry and springy to the touch – 20-25 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin should come out clean.

Transfer to a wire rack (I actually don't own one of these so I remove one of my oven racks and use that instead) and let cool for 5 minutes.

Serve (with butter or lemon curd).

Bonus Lemon Sugar recipe:

* Both recipes from William-Sonoma Muffin Cookbook.