by: Alison Hein
Whoever first thought to pair juicy, tangy lemon with tiny, mellow poppy seeds was on to a pairing as magical as peaches and cream, or strawberries and chocolate. I was curious, and decided to do a little research. A meandering trail of interesting (yet not useful) tidbits led me full circle.
The origin of lemons is unknown, although it is believed the fruit first grew in Assam (a region in northeast India), northern Burma or China. Poppy seeds (oilseeds obtained from the opium poppy Papaver Somniferum) may have originated in Mesopotamia or Sumeria. Viewing a bunch of ancient maps online left me unable to gauge the interconnected paths of these places (clearly a project for professional historians and geographers).
Moving on, I learned that poppy seeds (which from my amateur research I determined to be far older than lemons) have been found fossilized, suggesting that Neanderthal man may have used them more than 30,000 years ago! They have been found in other ancient sites (Sumerian and Minoan), and were mentioned in an Egyptian scroll dated circa 1550 BC. According to Wikipedia, “poppy seeds have long been used as a folk remedy to aid sleeping, promote fertility and wealth, and even to provide supposed magical powers of invisibility”.
Invisibility?? At this point, I decided to give up my “research” and just trust in the magical lemon / poppy combination, perhaps even more magical than I had originally thought.
Add the teaspoon of lemon oil if you enjoy extra powerful citrus flavor. Feel free to reduce the recommended ¼ cup of poppy seeds by as much as one half for less intensity. Finally, remember to fill the prepared tin no more than ¾ full of batter to avoid fallen or flattened muffins.
Eat your Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins warm or lightly toasted, for a magical breakfast in bed…
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
⅓ cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Juice and grated rind on one lemon
1 teaspoon lemon oil or lemon flavoring (optional)
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup poppy seeds
Preheat oven to 350°. In large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add milk to dry ingredients, stirring to mix in evenly. Add vegetable oil in the same manner, then the beaten eggs, lemon juice and rind, and lemon oil. Fold in sour cream, then poppy seeds.
Pour into greased or papered muffin tin. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until lightly golden, or until toothpick in center comes out clean.
Makes 12 muffins