A puff of citrus with a dunk and a dip … or full immersion?

My mom’s friend, Judy, used to make the most delicious little muffins that she called French Puffs. The miniature muffins were buttery and sweet. While they were still hot from the oven, she would immerse each little puff ball into melted butter and then roll it in cinnamon sugar.

When I started to make Judy’s recipe, I’d often start eating them as soon as they were dipped and rolled. The butter would drip down my chin and each bite would bring a little crunch of cinnamon and sugar. I have always loved serving these little French Puffs with brunch.

This time of year I get into such a lemon frenzy. I can’t get enough of the bright citrus flavor. Remember the Citrus Cream I used to fill the Tropical Twist Cream Cake in last week’s food column? The base of that Cream was actually a citrus curd, combining the juice and zest of lemons and limes.

I made another batch of the curd because I wanted to try using it in the French Puff muffins that I already love. Could they get any better?

The final results are tender and buttery  with just a hint of citrus. I divided the batter in half and stirred some poppy seeds into one portion. Rather than totally immersing each muffin in melted butter, I dipped only the tops into the yellow richness and then into granulated sugar for a little crunch and a little sparkle.

I have enough citrus curd left to make one more batch of muffins. I think I’ll chop up some toasted walnuts and stir them into the batter. And this time, I’ve decided on full butter immersion and a complete roll in the sugar. You just can’t beat that element of these baby muffin puffs.

As I mentioned in this week’s column, these muffins are a nice complement to the Ham and Eggs Couscous Salad — a delicious combination for a Spring luncheon with friends. But maybe just a dunk and a dip rather than the full immersion route.

Citrus Puff Muffins

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup Citrus Curd (see recipe below)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Coat mini-muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray or shortening.

Beat 1/2 cup butter in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add 3/4 cup sugar and beat to incorporate. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well blended and light. Beat in sour cream or yogurt and Citrus Curd. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add all at once to mixture in bowl. Stir just until dry ingredients have been mixed in.

Divide batter in half. Add poppy seeds to one half of the batter.

Spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter into each prepared muffin cup or making each cup 3/4 full. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until the center springs back when lightly touched.

While muffins are baking, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a small glass custard cup. Scoop 1/4 cup sugar in another small shallow bowl. Dip each hot muffin in butter, then in sugar. Set on wire rack to cool completely. Depending on the size of your muffin tins, you will get 2 1/2 to 3 dozen Citrus Puff Muffins.

Citrus Curd

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Grated zest of 1 lime
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs

Cut butter into pieces and place in a heavy saucepot. Add lime and orange zest, juices and sugar. Place pot over moderate heat. Stir until butter melts and mixture just begins to simmer. Remove from heat. In a bowl, whisk eggs together until light and frothy. Gradually add hot liquid, whisking constantly. When mixture is well blended, pour back into saucepot. Whisk constantly over moderate heat until the mixture thickens and just begins to bubble. Pour citrus curd through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cool slightly. Place waxed paper directly on top of the curd. Chill thoroughly. Citrus Curd can be stored in a jar or tightly sealed bowl in the refrigerator for a few days. Makes about 1 cup.

  • Remember that homemade curd is a wonderful topping for a slice of fresh pound cake or angel food cake. It’s also good as a filling in a tartlet shell with fresh berries sprinkled over the top.