Ginger Lemon Muffins


As far as improbable scientific studies go, I’d say this one recently summarized in the NYTimes takes the cake (ha!, bad pun, yes!). According to the journal Steroids (really?), having a sweet treat in the morning may actually be beneficial in helping keep off excess weight, provided it’s part of a low-calorie diet. Now, before you scoff and say this sounds like a study from the likes of  Dr. Spaceman, let’s ponder this for a moment; an occasional small treat is a far better solution than abstaining completely, only to binge in a big way later on. I think all but the most steel-willed amongst us have been there one time or another; you start your day off with the best of intentions, and likely make it through all of the major meals with your dignity intact, only to find yourself elbow deep in a pint of guilt Haazen Daaz at 10 PM.


Scientific study or not, it’s no secret that I’ve been known to indulge in a little morning chocolate, cake, or candy; there was an embarrassingly long stretch in high school where more often than not, come 10:35 AM you’d find me wolfing down a pack of Hot Tamales, among many other dietary transgressions (holy PopTarts).  Now, I’m not suggesting you trade in your salad for a slice of apple pie, at least not on a regular basis. To be completely honest, I’m not sure how qualified I am to be dispensing dietary advice, given my proclivity to eat dessert for dinner (hey, someone has to test all these recipes).  I’m just happy to find some justification for my questionable eating habits.




Delusions of healthy eating aside (and yes, I do eat my vegetables, it’s not all fairy dust and cupcakes), I think the true takeaway here is that once again moderation is the answer. So let me suggest you bake up a batch of these gorgeous cupcakes muffins, and enjoy every last delicately crumbed bite. If your taste buds are feeling a bit greedy, indulge in a second, but for safety’s sake give the rest to a friend/colleague (bonus points – baked goods = instant popularity), before you get a muffin top to match these golden domes.


Lest your eyes skim past the source of this recipe, let me take a moment to plug the cookbook these lovelies came from: The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham. I’m hardly the first to expound on its virtues, so I’ll keep it short, it’s a classic for a reason, perfect for when you want a breakfast free of fuss. In my short time with this book I’ve managed to bookmark nearly every page; it’s free of flash (coffee table cookbook seekers look elsewhere) but certainly not short on  content.


I hesitate to call these muffins, as the crumb is more similar to a cupcake, but let’s be real, most muffins are just cupcakes masquerading as breakfast anyway. If you’re treating these as muffins, they’re great plain, or exceptional split in half and slathered with a hearty pat of butter. Going the cupcake route? I’m confident that they could be dressed up with a little lemon or grapefruit curd or cream cheese frosting, or maybe both, though I haven’t experimented with that yet.

Adapted, barely, from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham

Yield: a dozen muffins

2 ounce piece unpeeled fresh ginger ¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar 2 tablespoons lemon zest (from 2 lemons) 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temp 2 large eggs 1 cup buttermilk 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ teaspoon baking soda


Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the muffin tin.

On the side of a box grater, using the small holes, grate the ginger; it should yield about ¼ cup. Add the grated ginger, and ¼ cup sugar to a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat til sugar is melted, and the mixture is hot (this won’t take long, so don’t walk away). Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add the lemon zest to the ginger mixture. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and remaining ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, til fluffy and light in color. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the buttermilk, and mix til thoroughly incorporated. In three additions, add the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the ginger lemon mixture, and mix til just incorporated.

Evenly distribute the batter between the twelve wells of the muffin tin; they should be about ¾ full. Bake for 14-20 minutes, or until set, lightly golden, and a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs attached. Serve warm.