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The Magical Properties of Zest

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Penny Pinching Epicure: The Magical Properties of Zest

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Magical Properties of Zest

I recently saw a Food Network segment on how citrus zest can take a great dish to the next level (yes, that is why my recent recipes have utilized the ingredient :)). I was skeptical that a little bit of shaved lemon peel could really make that big a difference, so I decided to try it out.

(cue music)

I have to say, I'm a believer. I've tried it in dressings, and this weekend I baked it into a batch of sweet potato muffins. It doesn't take much, and the effects are sublime.

P.S. Big shout out to my colleague AY: I took a batch of muffins into work and she was the only one able to discern the secret ingredient :)

Note 1: These muffins are dense, crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. If you prefer a more crumby texture, increase the amount of flour.

 Note 2: Don't waste the lemon after you zest it; try this recipe, which requires the zest of one lemon but the juice of 2!

Sweet Potato Muffins

2 large sweet potatoes
2 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (I prefer fresh)
pinch of ground clove
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour (a bit less if you are using a gluten free baking mix)
chopped pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Heat a pot of water to a boil and cook until tender. Drain and cool in cold water, then mash or puree with an immersion blender.
  3. Add eggs, applesauce, sugar, vanilla, zest and spices. Stir to combine.
  4. With a whisk, stir in baking soda, baking powder and flour until just combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Divide mixture evenly between 12 muffin tins and sprinkle pecans over the tops. Bake at 350 12-15 minutes or until edges are crispy and muffin tops are golden brown and firm.
Fun variations:
  • Play with the spice proportions, or try orange or lime zest in place of the lemon zest.
  • Sprinkle chopped candied or spicy candied pecans.
  • Add a splash of whisky or bourbon in place of the vanilla.
The cost:
sweet potatoes: .98
eggs: .33
applesauce: .35
lemon: .20
sugar: .45
flour: .25
nuts: .30

Grand total: $2.86; makes 12 muffins

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