In my experience, muffins have the ability to be really really bad or really really good. The ratio of bad to good muffins in this world is something depressing, like 2:1, and their lack of nutritional value doesn’t ever work in their favor too. Like, if you’re going to eat that much junk for breakfast, why not go all the way, add a little more sugar and have a slice of cake, you know? I mostly avoid the risk of eating muffins except for when it comes to two equal and opposite specimens: the mini lemon poppyseed kind that come in clear plastic packages in the bakery section of the grocery store that I would devour by the dozen as a wee one, and the large triumphant muffins from Blue Sky Bakery in Park Slope which will be the last remaining muffins on earth once everyone realizes that most muffins blow hard. Both of these muffins transcend the universal muffin problem of what to do with the muffin bottom once you’ve ripped off, buttered, and eaten the lesser evil muffin top, for the grocery store lemon poppyseed muffin’s homogenous squishy texture from the outside in makes the top no different from the bottom, and Blue Sky’s oft filled muffin bottoms read like moist sour cream coffee cakes.
And here’s a third muffin option that combines my lifelong love for lemon poppyseed with my tendency to root for the underdog: it’s a topless muffin. A stubby breakfast cake that’s moistened with olive oil, beefed up with almond meal, and is as good as a muffin top. It works because parchment muffin liners are nary seen in this recipe, therefore allowing the outer edges of the muffin to get caramelized and crusty, just like a top would be. So it’s kind of like this whole thing is a muffin top with a shape that’s easier to grab onto. And are they kind of just an unfrosted mini cake in disguise as a more socially accepted breakfast food? Yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what they are.
Jumbo muffin tins (7.1 ounce capacity) make these muffins the perfect size. (I don’t recommend making them in standard cupcake tins, as the small size doesn’t allow for the full effect. In a pinch, using a 9” cake pan will work, but plan for more baking time.) These muffins are just as good the next day so add these to your list of brunch things that can be made ahead of time. Serve them with a light dusting of powdered sugar, and perhaps some yogurt and berries for a sweet simple breakfast.
lemon poppyseed olive oil muffins
makes 12 jumbo muffins
1 1/2 c sugar
2 c flour
3/4 c almond meal
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
4 tsp poppy seeds
4 tsp lemon zest
1 1/2 c olive oil
1/4 c lemon juice
3/4 c whole milk
1 tsp almond extract
Powdered sugar, for serving
preheat the oven to 350ºF. coat 12 jumbo nonstick muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside.
in a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, almond meal, salt, baking soda, baking powder, poppy seeds, and lemon zest. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, lemon juice, milk, and almond extract. add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. distribute the batter evenly amongst the muffin tins and bake until the edges are deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes.
cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. run a small offset spatula around the edges and remove to the rack. serve warm or cool completely and then serve. dust with powdered sugar before serving.