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Lemon Cream Cheese Muffins

I thought I already knew the best brownie recipe in the world, but Renée Kohlman, the blogger behind Sweet Sugar Bean, has proven me wrong. Her brownie, made with both dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder, is subtle in taste and rich in texture. It's my new reigning champion.

The Saskatoon native knows what she's doing. Her chocolate chip cookie is chewy, loaded with dark chocolate chunks and topped with flaky sea salt; her double peanut butter and white chocolate chunk cookies are even better. Kohlman's first cookbook, All The Sweet Things, has more than 100 recipes for cookies, cakes, tarts, pies, pastries and more, and everything I made from it was spectacular.

Each recipe has a beautiful accompanying photograph, which is great. Every good cookbook is a coffee-table offering as well as a guide, after all, and seeing the results of every recipe makes it easier to decide where to delve in, particularly for inexperienced bakers.

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There will be hits and misses depending on personal tastes, as there always are. But the book radiates real joy, the most important emotion in baking.

My advice is to start with the brownies and work up to the plum and nectarine hazelnut galette. At some point, embrace your inner kid and make the chocolate marshmallow pie. And if you're looking to serve mom breakfast in bed this weekend, these muffins should be a hit.

Recipe excerpted from All the Sweet Things © 2017 Renée Kohlman.

Servings: About 10 muffins

Lemon and Cream Cheese Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar, divided

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup cream cheese, softened

1 large egg, at room temperature

1/3 cup canola or other cooking oil

1/2 cup whole milk

4 tbsp fresh lemon juice, divided

1 tbsp grated lemon zest

Method

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place the rack in the centre of the oven. Line a muffin pan with 10 papers or grease well with your preferred cooking oil. Pour some water into the empty muffin cups to stop them from burning.

Combine the flour, 2/3 cup of sugar, the baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut the cream cheese into quarter-inch cubes and work it into the dry ingredients, using a pastry blender or your hands, until small and large chunks of cream cheese remain. Beat together the egg, oil, milk, 2 tbsp of the lemon juice and the lemon zest. Stir this gently into the dry ingredients until just combined.

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan so the cups are about three-quarters full, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden, the tops spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean. Stir together the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar and remaining 2 tbsp of lemon juice in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to brush this mixture on top of the hot muffins. Let them cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove them from the pan and let cool completely on the rack.

Store the muffins in an airtight container for 1 day, or freeze for up to 1 month.

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