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