Oh, what a difference a glaze makes!

I have often shied away from sweet, cake-like muffins. I suppose I would rather feel healthy and good about eating a high-fiber bran muffin or go all out and eat a frosted cupcake. Then, somewhere in my food-blog meanderings, I came upon a glazed muffin recipe. I thought that the sweet syrup atop might push a muffin into the sinful treat category enough for me to really enjoy it.

I developed this recipe while working with Spice Islands as a Flavor Explorer. In the past, I had never used lemon extract and it had been years since a bottle of almond extract lived in my cupboard. Now, I find myself using all types of extracts in simple syrups that I mix with coffee drinks and cocktails.

Many of the lemon poppy-seed muffins I’ve tried had very little flavor. Even the addition of fresh lemon zest wasn’t always enough. The lemon extract added a little extra punch, while still keeping the flavor natural.

When making the glaze, I experimented with a touch of almond extract. I loved the combination with the fresh lemon so much that I added another splash. The almond aroma enhances the tart, lemon zing. Instead of brushing the glaze on top, I dunked the muffins right in for a nice, healthy soak. The extra moisture, sweetness and flavor boosted these muffins from good to divine.

Recently, a friend asked me a question that prompted my current reader poll (see right column). She asked me to rank which I would choose from first to last if I could eat one of the following treats every day without any caloric consequence:


My ranking was: Doughnut, Croissant, Bagel, Scone, Muffin. The exercise got me thinking about muffins and why I plunked them into last place. Remembering this scrumptious lemon poppy seed recipe inspires me to reconsider my answer.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins with Almond Glaze
Makes 12 large or 16 small muffins

For the muffins:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Poppy Seed
2 teaspoons lemon zest
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup plain yogurt

For the glaze:
½ cup white sugar
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons melted butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in poppy seeds and lemon zest until well combined. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar for at least 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add the extracts and mix briefly until combined. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, add the flour mixture alternately with the yogurt in two additions each. Do not use an electric mixer. Just use your spatula to mix until just combined.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups and bake for about 18 minutes, or until the center is just set. Remove muffins and cool on a rack.

To make the glaze, combine the sugar, juice and melted butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When it bubbles, reduce heat and stir until the mixture is transparent and all sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in extracts. Let cool.

When muffins are cool enough to handle easily and glaze is lukewarm, dip each muffin into the glaze to coat the top well. These muffins are best eaten the day they are made and, if possible, slightly warm.