So, when my turn came to pick a recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, I chose the Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins. Because the group had never baked any of the book’s savory recipes. And because people have very strong opinions about cornbread. When you have a group of 300+ members all baking the same thing, you need a little controversy. Otherwise, you’ll be ready to lobotomize yourself with a soup spoon after No. 89.
At the risk of sounding like a cross between Foghorn Leghorn and Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll say that I’m a Southerner, and we tend to be territorial about cornbread. I fully expect the Southern delegation of TWD to either a.) politely decline to make these corn muffins on the grounds that they contain sugar or b.) politely make the muffins but mention how they cut the sugar. I know, we put sugar in everything else, but when it comes to cornbread, most Southerners don’t like it sweet. We go with cast-iron, high heat and bacon grease. Judge the bacon grease if you must, but my 89-year-old mommaw swears by it, and she could give you the family trees of every character on “Days of Our Lives” while single-handedly plowing a field right now.
I picked Dorie’s Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins, because I wanted to try a Southwestern cornbread. In the South, everyone’s grandmother makes “Mexican Cornbread” with cream-style corn, canned green chiles and at least a cup of cheese. Dorie’s recipe offered an authentically Southwestern cornbread with fresh corn, jalapeño, red bell pepper and cilantro. I was curious.
Dorie’s muffins were a nice surprise. Sweet, spicy and really fresh-tasting. The corn and peppers aren’t cooked before they go into the batter, so they give plenty of color and bite. I buttered my first one out of habit, but it definitely didn’t need it.
The thing about these muffins is that they inspire chili-making. So, if you’re following the Great Corn Muffin Debate of ’09 or looking for a few good chili recipes, visit the rest of the TWD clan.
Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins
From Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From My Home to Yours”
Makes 12 muffins
South-of-the-Border-style muffins have the spunk, spice and potential to be as good a partner to soup and salad as to huevos rancheros or a mild-mannered four-minute egg. Think of them as mini corn breads–they’ve got that kind of tight crumb and light crumbliness–and enjoy the cilantro and chiles that give them such a distinctive Southwestern twang. (For a more traditional version of these muffins, see Playing Around.)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 cup corn kernels (add up to 3 tablespoons more if you’d like)–fresh, frozen or canned (in which case they should be drained and patted dry)
- 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded, deveined and finely diced
- 1/4 red bell pepper, seeded, deveined and finely diced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
- Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, chili powder, salt, baking soda and black pepper. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter and egg yolk together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough–the batter will be lumpy, and that’s just way it should be. Stir in the corn kernels, jalapeño, red pepper and cilantro. 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.
Serving: These are particularly good served warm and still very good at room temperature. As a morning muffin, they’re good with butter; for lunch or supper, try them with red pepper jelly or salsa.
Storing: Best served the day they are made, these can be kept covered overnight and split and toasted the next day. They can also be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months. Rewarm in a 350-degree-F oven, if you’d like, or split and toast them.
Plain Corn Muffins: Omit the chili powder, black pepper, jalapeño, red pepper and cilantro and increase the sugar to 1/4 cup.