- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Many of us have a weakness for cheesecake. I surely do. I can eat cheesecake any day of the week and at any time of the day — and I adore a creamy cheesecakelike topping on muffins.

In today’s recipe, the cheesecake topping with lemon zest offers the perfect foil to a sweet lemon-scented poppy-seed muffin underneath. Don’t worry about being stuck in the kitchen — the muffins are based on a mix, so even though you’re assembling a cheesecake topping, your time investment is minimal.

So enjoy a spring morning by working in the garden or taking a long walk. Then serve these muffins for brunch with sliced smoked salmon, omelets of your choice, and fresh fruit.

Double lemon poppy-seed cheesecake muffins

The preparation time is 15 minutes, and the baking time is 20 to 22 minutes.

Vegetable oil spray for misting the pan

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature

1 large egg

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest

teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 15.8-ounce package lemon poppy-seed muffin mix

1 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large egg

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mist the bottom of 12 muffin cups with the vegetable oil spray. Set the pan aside.

Prepare the cheesecake filling: Place the cream cheese, egg, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.

Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until the mixture is creamy, 1 minute. Set aside.

Prepare the muffin batter: Place the muffin mix in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Place the milk, oil and egg in the well and stir the wet ingredients with a fork to combine and break up the egg yolk. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together with a wooden spoon just until combined, 20 strokes.

The batter will still be a little lumpy. Spoon or scoop one-third cup batter into each prepared muffin cup, filling it three quarters of the way full. Place a heaping tablespoon of the cream-cheese mixture on top of each muffin. Place the pan in the oven.

Bake the muffins until they are golden and just spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 20 to 22 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.

Run a dinner knife around the edges of the muffins, lift them up from the bottom of the cups using the end of the knife, and carefully pick them out of the cups with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. The muffins are ready to serve.

Makes 12 muffins.

Anne Byrn is the author of the Doctor series cookbooks, including “The Cake Mix Doctor,” “The Dinner Doctor” and “Cupcakes From the Cake Mix Doctor” (Workman Publishing). To share favorite cooking tips, ask questions and access her free online newsletter, go to www.cakemixdoctor.com.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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