Lemon Curd Muffins

If there’s anything I’m a true sucker for, it’s lemon anything. No really. I love chocolate and a lot of other sweet things, but when it comes to citrus-based desserts, my salivary glands go haywire and my head fills with buttercups and sunshine.

Fluffy, white lemon muffins with a lemon curd belly, topped with a lemon curd-sugar coating

What do I like about these muffins? Well. You mix the wet ingredients together, you mix the dry ingredients together, pour one into the other and voila, you have perfect golden muffins in a matter of 15 minutes or less. I mean it’s really not any harder than perusing the morning paper or making a cup of coffee. If you can tie your shoelaces, these are a piece of cake (got that). Wake up, make your coffee, work, take a half-hour break, and maybe during that time you can make these without breaking a sweat. There is just no excuse now.

I had to satisfy the lemon fiend in me a couple of days ago, and did so well with these muffins. I had an incredibly hard time labelling this either a muffin or cupcake, because although this one ticks the boxes for all things which make a muffin, well, a muffin, the insides reminded me more of a cupcake than anything– light as air, pale, tender and not as dense as any muffin you might come across. It’s 80% muffin and 20% cupcake in technique, but 100% cupcake in texture. The crumb is neither robust or rigid, but holds up enough to provide the perfect amount of bite. Add this to the mix of half-molten lemon curd centre and sugar-crusted, sharp-tongued top and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Just for general info, muffins generally:

  • have a domed top (as is evident above)
  • a denser crumb
  • little if any frosting (usually a sugar coating such as this one)
  • require the wet and dry ingredients to be mixed separately before one is added to the other, instead of the typical creaming method utilised in the making of cupcakes.

Therefore, I present to you the cuffin.

Delight is a synonym for that wonderful lemon curd-sugar topping, which once again couldn’t be easier. Delight is also a synonym for the feeling you get when you bite into a soft, white, lemony bit of cake, rounded off with the sharp notes of homemade (or store-bought, that’s good too) lemon curd. Sharp on soft. White and black. It’s meant to be.

Lemon Curd Cupcakes (makes 10-12 cupcakes, adapted from here)

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

200g self-raising flour

100g white castor sugar

pinch salt

1 egg

75ml vegetable oil (canola/sunflower is good here)

zest of one lemon

juice of half a lemon

120ml whole milk

60ml (1/4 cup) lemon curd, homemade or store-bought

For the lemon curd topping:

60ml (1/4 cup) lemon curd

70g white sugar (granulated/castor)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 190C (375F) and grease a cupcake or muffin tin. In a large bowl  whisk together the whole milk, egg, oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. In a medium bowl, briefly whisk together the self-raising flour, sugar and salt. Pour the dry into the wet mix and mix everything together until just combined with a wooden spoon. Using a tablespoon, half fill a mould in the tin with some batter, then use 2 teaspoons to put a small dollop of lemon curd in the centre, then fill to the 3/4-mark of the mould or case with more batter. Repeat for the rest of the cupcake moulds. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes (mine took 13 minutes exactly). Check at the 12-minute mark; a wooden skewer inserted into the side (because the centre has lemon curd) of one should emerge clean. They should be nicely domed with a golden top, and no cracking on the surface.

Whilst these are baking, make the topping (YUM). In a small bowl, microwave the lemon curd until warm but not totally liquidy. Put the white sugar in a shallow dish and set these two aside until the cupcakes are done baking. Once they are fully baked, leave to cool for 5 minutes before rolling the tops in the lemon curd, then rolling again in sugar.

Devour, and know that life is good.

Blueberry Vanilla Bean Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Coconut Cream

Whipped, marshmallowy coconut lemon cream sandwiched between two chewy and tender blueberry-and-vanilla-bean-littered cookies. 

After returning from a trip to Penang with a friend who’s seen me through the best and worst of times (thanks for tolerating me Ruru, if you’re reading!), I felt like making something which would preserve a few key memories just that much longer. There was one night we were sipping cocktails by the beach, the undulating waves smoothing out the ridges of our minds left behind by whatever burdensome thoughts or happenings that inhabited its corners. Thought back to a creamy pina colada. Lemon and coconut. Blueberries. Beach and zen. The picture was made whole.

The trip was filled with laughter, food so good just thinking about it makes my heart beat a little faster, unanticipated hair-lightening treatments from the glaring sun, and ease apace with excitement. I remember waking up at 3:15am the last night at the hotel for no reason at all, caught in a mild trance, so happy to be alive. Surreal, but hopeful. Time spent with the right people and the accompanying in-depth discussions on anything and everything unleashes new takes on life and all it has to offer. When the glimmer of the world seems to disappear, a little getaway revs the psyche.

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The factors which elevate this cookie sandwich to a whole new level are:

– the right ratio of white to dark brown sugar. Dark brown sugar provides the desirable hit of molasses, but it’s also slightly more acidic so it reacts more with the baking soda, making it rise more. It must be balanced with the right amount of white sugar for the perfect combination of fudge and crisp.

– melted butter. This produces denser, chewier cookies; the creaming process incorporates too much air so I chose to do away with it, though it may be desirable in other cake-based recipes

– refrigeration. Yes, it makes a mammoth difference, and you can read more about it here. More on this a bit later.

– and finally, the almost pornographic smushing together of warm cookie and cool, whipped lemon coconut cream. The combination of flavours here just can’t be beat.

I mean, really.

Have the cookies by themselves, in which case you won’t be missing out on much. Each cookie is charmingly ridged at the edges, character obtained only by the mandatory chilling before baking. This serves to dry out the cookie dough a little, thereby concentrating the sugars to produce a chewier, more flavourful cookie. The use of dark brown sugar in this case means that you end up with a rich hint of molasses, and a moist interior devoid of excess ‘doughiness’. The cookies also spread a little less during baking because the fat is solidified during the crucial resting process, and though one would think this would reduce the chewy factor, it only does the opposite.

Or crown them with this divine lemon curd-flavoured cream. It’s a magical dance of pina colada-esque beachside vibes and the natural purity of a chewy cookie lucky enough to be on the sunny island in the first place. I might be getting a bit carried away.

Blueberry Vanilla Bean Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Coconut Cream (makes 11-12 medium-sized, or 3-inch wide cookies; adapted from my an old cookie recipe)

Note: Feel free to double this recipe! I halved and adjusted the quantities from my previous experiment just to test it, and the first trial turned out much better than I thought. So go ahead and multiply accordingly, if you so wish.

Ingredients

For the cookies:

95g (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour

half a vanilla bean with the insides scraped out, or substitute with half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

85g (half cup) white sugar

70g dark brown sugar

115g unsalted butter, melted

1 egg

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

70g (half cup) fresh or frozen blueberries

For the coconut lemon cream:

150g chilled, canned coconut milk (take a can and leave it in the fridge overnight, then open it to reveal a thick, more ‘whipped’ consistency)

50g (2 heaping tbsp-fuls) of lemon curd

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate, smaller bowl, rub the vanilla bean into the white sugar. Skip this step if you don’t have vanilla bean. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, dark brown sugar, white sugar speckled with vanilla bean, vanilla extract (only if you’re not using the vanilla bean, and the egg. Add the flour mix to the melted butter mix and stir briefly until just combined with a wooden spoon. Add the blueberries and quickly mix them in gently (sounds ironic, I know). A little pop here and there won’t hurt, but it’s better to let the oven to the work, creating those pockets of warm blue goo.

Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.While waiting for the cookies to cool, make the lemon coconut cream. In a bowl with an electrical whisk, beat together the chilled coconut milk and lemon curd. Beat on high for ~1 minute, at which point the coconut milk will look thick but the mixture is still pretty runny. Place the bowl in the fridge, during which time it will thicken into a more mousse-like texture. It’s quite magical.

Preheat your oven to 190C (375F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Once the cookies have rested, take them out of the fridge and use a tablespoon to scoop out the batter, then use your palms to roll gently into little balls. Place the balls on the cookie sheet and press down slightly to flatten them a little. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes.

Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the pan on a cooking rack before removing. Sandwich two with the chilled lemon coconut cream. Fear not, the cookie sandwich has made one hell of a comeback.