I woke up, put on a bikini and shoveled a muffin in my face. Not today (unfortunately). But almost every year of my childhood, for two delicious weeks in February, this was my routine.
No, I'm not a card carrying member of the Polar Bear Club. Considering that I keep a space heater at arms' length throughout the winter, it's safe to say that could never be my reality. Instead, the backdrop for this carb-tastic lifestyle was the Florida Keys. Islamorada, to be exact.
Every winter, my parents would pack us up and pile us into the car as we headed south with dreams of sand, fried fish sandwiches and crystal-clear water fueling the long road to trip there.
After we made our obligatory-but-now-embarrassing stop at The South of the Border and arrived at the southernmost point in the States we were met by our closest friends. About six families made the annual trip with us and once we all united in Florida magic happened. The kids would spend all day at the beach, in the pool, running around like little sunburned prunes. Our biggest worry back then was whether we would be allowed to order another virigin strawberry daquiri after lunch. Our parents would talk, eat, play cards, barbeque, work on their tans, eat.
Eat. Barbeque. S'more. Yes, I just turned s'more into a verb. We s'mored like professionals.
You're getting the picture, right? It was paradise. All this talk of eating reminds me of my original point: Muffins. There was this magical, sprawling place called The Castle that was home to various tiny shops and art galleries. Inside The Castle was a bakery that offered up fresh Sunshine Muffins every morning. You had to get there early and you had to wait in line. But these muffins were worth the patient wait. They looked, smelled and tasted like pure sunshine. These citrus-scented, glazed darlings were reason to jump out of bed in the morning, even if we didn't need one.
Citrus-Currant Sunshine Muffins
Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan
1/2 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups AP flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
3/4 cup moist, plump dried currants
Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular sized muffin tin or fit the molds with paper muffin cups.
In a large bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of orange is strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together the orange and lemon juices, lemon extract, melted butter and eggs. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough - a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Fold in the currants. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.