Nearly any parent will tell you this: Naptime is the golden hour. Actually, if you’re lucky, it’s the golden couple of hours.
Before becoming a mom myself, I thought the parents who pointed this out were a little too snarky for their own good. That’s probably because before becoming a parent, I felt much more kid than adult. What’s so glorious about naptime anyway? Surely my mom and dad loved spending every waking moment with me so much that they dreaded those miserable hours when I was napping and they were left to go about their day amidst that dull and lonely silence. That’s definitely how they felt, right?
Life sure changes perspectives. Since becoming mom to a sweet baby Bean who holds the whole of my heart in that round little body, I’ve learned the value of naptime. It has nothing to do with how much you enjoy each other’s company (which is lots, by the way) and everything to do with our mutual need to recharge our batteries and rediscover ourselves. For Beany, that means snuggles with Bunny and sweet, sleepy dreams. For me, that means catching up on work, finding time for a shower (hooray!) or puttering around in the kitchen. For a few short hours, the world is my oyster — so long as that oyster is quiet.
Lately, naptime has become my experimental kitchen time. The catch is that my usual go-tos (i.e. the standing mixer, hand mixer and food processor) are far too noisy to be worth the risk of an early wakeup. As a result, I’ve been working on recipes that are rather old-fashioned in their approach: Think Carolyn Ingalls in that itty bitty kitchen at the back of their family homestead. Carolyn did receive that glorious wood-burning cooker for Christmas one year, so the oven is in the clear zone. But other than that, it’s nothing but prairie-approved simplicity.
So ‘tis the story of how these lemon vanilla bean muffins were born — in a quiet kitchen, by way of whisks and spoons. I know, I know. It’s another lemon recipe. But the vanilla bean really deepens the overall flavor by warming up the citrus in an unexpected way. Throw in the brown sugar crumble, and it’s the perfect blend of moist cake, crisp topping and sweet-to-tart ratio. The fresh berries on top are optional, but they do make everything oh so pretty. And pretty is worth opting in.
Lemon Vanilla Bean Muffins
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon baking soda
• ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
• ½ cup salted butter, melted
• ½ cup sour cream
• 2 eggs, lightly beaten
• 1 vanilla bean
• ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
• zest from 3-4 lemons (about 1 tablespoon)
• ¼ cup all-purpose flour
• ¼ cup light brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons salted cold butter, cut into cubes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl or a large measuring cup, mix together the melted butter (cooled so you don’t scramble the eggs), sour cream, eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest. Carefully slice open your vanilla bean, and scrape all the vanilla beany goodness from the inside with the backside of a knife (Get every last bit! Those puppies are pricy, and the flavor is goooood!). Add the vanilla bean insides to the other wet ingredients, and whisk together until the wet mixture is lovely and speckled throughout.
Add the wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and stir together with a spatula until just combined. The batter will be pretty thick.
In a small bowl, mix together the crumble topping: ¼ cup flour, ¼ cup light brown sugar and 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the texture resembles coarse breadcrumbs (you can use a pastry cutter here or just your hands. Sometimes the fingers are faster).
Spoon the batter into prepared muffin tins until they’re filled nearly to the brim. Top the batter with the crumble topping, then bake the muffins for 18 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick just comes out clean and the tops are lightly golden. Let them cool in the pan for a minute or two (basically just until you’re able to get them out without burning yourself), then remove them from the pan, and let them cool on a wire rack. Now relax, eat and be merry. Eating lemon is like eating sunshine, you know.
How do you make use of the quiet hours of the day? Any naptime-approved recipes you’d like to share? Do tell!