Thursday, 16 January 2014

Lemon, Cherry & Basil Muffins - gluten free

These are so exciting, I have to share them with you!

I had a hankering for some muffins this week, but wanted to try doing something a bit different. I haven't made anything lemony for ages, but with all the recent seasonal binging, really fancied the fresh, light, clean flavour and aroma that lemon adds to any dish.

I didn't want to make just lemon muffins though. No matter how lovely lemon is, it sounded a bit uninteresting as a single ingredient and I thought it would be good to have a sweeter fruit to offset the acidity of the lemon. Being the new year (and starting to look forward to the spring), I have been reminding myself of the contents of my freezer in an attempt to start planning dishes to use up the remains of last year's frozen goodies and make way for the new season. Remember the mountain of cherries I got from the orchards last summer (carefully pitted and frozen for the winter months)? Well, I still have a load left…... Yay!!

So cherries it is………. They sit perfectly alongside lemon, add a wonderful sweet, fruity reminder of warm summer days and look so inviting poking through the sides of the muffin sponge.

Then I got to thinking 'lemon and basil is a great combination. I wonder whether it would work with lemon & cherry?' I have never put basil in a cake before, but it sounded like it might work and I love to experiment, so why not give it a go? There seems to have been quite a big shift in recent months towards using herbs in sweet cooking. All herbs seem fair game for exploration, but lavender, rosemary, thyme and basil seem to be particularly common. And why not? It seems there are no limits for the use of these garden culinary treasures and we seem to have an insatiable desire to discover new food experiences.

And so, my Lemon, Cherry & Basil muffins have come to be…………… and what a find they are! These are probably the nicest muffins I have had in years. Not only is the sponge a wonderful moist texture, but the flavours are pretty unique and quite delicious. A good lemony base, through which is threaded a notable hint of complimentary basil, dotted with sweet, moist, fruity cherry pieces, all topped with a sharp, tangy lemon icing.

They taste lovely without the icing too and I think this way would make a delicious, fresh breakfast cake - warm or cold. The addition of a good quantity of ground almonds to the mix gives them a wholesome, extra healthy bite and makes them that little bit extra filling to get you through until lunch.

I am SO excited about this recipe (not sure they will last the day the way I am eating them), that I have decided to share it with three challenges this month :

January's Tea Time Treats - hosted by Janie over at the Hedge Combers. Janie has just taken up the Tea Time Treats baton and is hosting her very first Tea Time Treats party this month. Welcome Janie! Tea Time Treats (which is co-hosted by Karen from Lavender & Lovage) has challenged us this month to use eggs. This recipe has three of them - all large and all free-range!

I am very lucky, as my daughter's child minder has parents who have a free-range egg farm. I really do know where my eggs have come from and how fresh they are………….. which is a good thing………. Gluten free baking tends to require the use of more eggs than most traditional baking as the flours are often more absorbent and need a higher level of liquid to prevent a dry, crumbly result.

This month's Alphabakes being hosted by Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker (co-hosted by Caroline Makes). January's letter has come up as 'Y'. Tricky one! I have gone for 'yellow' as my link to 'Y' to celebrate the beautiful yellow lemon contained within my muffins as a key flavour ingredient, without which they would not be……….

And finally, the No Waste Food Challenge, hosted at Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary, on account of my need to use up all those wonderful cherries, lovingly saved and frozen straight from the orchard last summer and lurking at the back of freezer, hoping to be enjoyed before the next harvest arrives. I also used the recipe to finish off some buttermilk which was reaching its 'use by' date. I am really not good with half-used pots of cultured milks and creams. They are probably the one thing I am most guilty of throwing away. Muffins are always perfect for using up buttermilk!

Anyway, these little beauties are definitely worth making. And now I have taken the risk in trying herbs in sweet stuff, the possibilities are endless…………….. Watch this space!

Lemon, Cherry & Basil Muffins - gluten free


180g plain gluten free flour mix (I used mix B from this post)
120g ground almonds
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 tablespoon GF baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
150g unsalted butter - room temperature
150g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs - room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons lemon extract
finely grated zest 1 lemon
1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
175 ml buttermilk
150g cherries (fresh or frozen) - pitted and cut into small pieces

Icing :
Approx 100g icing sugar
lemon juice
a little lemon zest


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4. 
  2. Either line a muffin pan with muffin cases or lightly oil the muffin pan (if it is not non-stick).
  3. Weigh and mix together the flour, almonds, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt, making sure any lumps are broken down.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy.
  5. Beat in the eggs one at a time until completely blended.
  6. Add and beat in the vanilla and lemon extracts, lemon zest and chopped basil.
  7. Fold in the flour mix alternately with the butter milk about a third at a time, until just combined. 
  8. Finally, fold in the fruit very gently, being careful not to over-mix.
  9. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tin/cases and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon.
  10. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown and the tops spring back to the touch.
  11. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. 
  12. To make the icing, mix lemon juice a little at a time with the icing sugar until it reaches a thick drizzling consistency. 
  13. Drizzle over the muffins and top with a little grated lemon zest for decoration.

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  1. I'm sold! These sound amazing! I want to reach in and eat one. Lovely flavour combination and that drizzle of icing makes them so look inviting. I've used rosemary in sweet dishes and mint, but never basil.

    1. Thanks Katie. Didn't you make that amazing crustless lemon tart with mango and basil? I remember it well. It sounded lovely……………...

  2. Oh my they look DELICIOUS! that icing!....the flavour combo sounds yummy and refreshing!

    1. Thank you! The icing is lovely and tangy and makes the muffins extra special…..

  3. Wow, I love the flavour combination here! REALLY wishing I had one of these to eat right now (note: don't look at food blogs when you are starving lol)

    1. I know what you mean…... Food blogs when I am really hungry make me drool (and then reach for the cake tin …… the perils of making too many cakes!)

  4. Hey Kate, thank you so much for the kind welcome to Tea Time Treats! I'm having so much fun exploring new blogs already :) Thanks also for sharing this recipe, it looks utterly delish!
    Janie x

    1. Thanks Janie. These challenges are definitely a fantastic way to find new blogs and get some great recipes and ideas. There are some amazingly talented cooks out there sharing their wisdom with us!!

  5. These look absolutely amazing!! I really wish I could have one now. I love the flavour combination here even though I'm not a huge fan of cherries but definitely lemon and basil. Thanks for entering AlphaBakes.

    1. Thank you! It was fun to enter a new challenge!

  6. Stunning! These look absolutely gorgeous and I wish I had one right now for my breakfast! Thank you for sharing with the No Waste Food Challenge!

    1. You're welcome. It was fun (and got rid of a load of cherries and buttermilk)!

  7. I love it, especially the use of basil. I have been intrigued last time already I saw a sweet recipe with basil in it, but those muffins look really good.

    1. Thanks Christian. The basil was quite a revelation. I will definitely be experimenting with it again!

  8. What delicious home-baked muffins! Interesting idea to use basil - I never have tried to use it in baking before.

    1. Thanks Thaila. I would definitely give it a go. It is wonderful with citrus particularly!


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