Looking for a few bakers away from altitude (I’m at 6,800 ft.) to test drive this recipe and let me know how it did by commenting at the bottom of the post. Altitude bakers are welcome, too, of course–but I mostly need folks at sea level or not too far above. American east or west coasts, south, midwest –all fine. Countries abroad at sea level, you know who you are. Thanks!!
My mom, born and raised near McComb, Mississippi, was the cornbread maker in our family. Black as coal on the outside and yellow like salty sunshine on the inside, her no-recipe cornbread — hot or cold — gave shape to our days. The cast iron pan graced the table at a tomatoes and green beans summer suppertime and then you could sneak into the kitchen of a morning and cut yourself a little piece for breakfast to keep from getting coffee tummy. If you were lucky, there might be an afternoon snack of cornbread topped with sour cream and honey. (And if there wasn’t cornbread, you’d do the same with biscuits.) In the evening, my dad would crumble a big slice into a glass and then fill the glass with buttermilk, eating the whole kit and caboodle with a big spoon.
Now you might remember my mentioning that my cornbread has never been as good as my mom’s. No one’s has. I’ve made it every which way but loose and it’s good; I’ll give you that. But it’s not my mom’s. But I don’t give up and while I do a big cornbread dream week once in a while to see if I can ratchet up my bread, I also sometimes come up with a totally different winner. Like this last week when I read through every cornbread recipe I could find (thinking I’d try a new one), only to discover I just wanted to add apples and cheese to make my new Apple-Cheddar Corn Muffins. Which I did. More than once. Let’s just say we have a few muffins in the freezer. And while this still isn’t mom’s cornbread, these are something else. Not overtly appley or cheesy, but totally tasty, barely sweet corn muffins you’d eat with bean soup, fried chicken or fish, chili (Hello, Halloween!), and –as Dave and I have been doing — with our coffee or tea for breakfast. You might even consider them for Thanksgiving!
I didn’t need the above photo for the blog, but just found it fun to look at out of the more than 50 I took to get the few shots you see. I might have continued shooting because these little breads became a little close to my heart through the stirring, baking, tasting, and photographing. I think you, too, might like them when you try this:
Apple-Cheddar Corn Muffins
- Shortening or softened butter for greasing muffin tin
- ¼ cup salted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup finely-ground yellow cornmeal (I like Quaker cornmeal.)
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup chopped apple
- 1 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
- Butter +/or honey for serving
- PREPARATION: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and set rack at center. Grease the cups of a muffin tin well, including around the top edges, or line with cupcake papers if you prefer. (I think muffins are better without the paper as they bake with a crispier crust.)
- MIX TOGETHER THE WET INGREDIENTS: In a medium bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the cooled butter, eggs, buttermilk, and brown sugar.
- MIX TOGETHER THE DRY INGREDIENTS: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda.
- STIR TOGETHER THE WET AND DRY INGREDIENTS: Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture, along with the chopped apple, and stir together until just barely mixed.
- USING A SPRAYED LARGE SCOOP, divide the batter into the greased muffin cups. Top each with some cheese – a little more than a tablespoon for each.
- BAKE UNTIL GOLDEN BROWN and toothpick inserted at center comes out clean or nearly clean – 14-18 minutes. Set tin on cooling rack for 5-8 minutes. Bang pan firmly a few times and flip to turn muffins out. Or, using an off-set spatula or a small, thin knife, lift muffins out of cups, cutting around edges if necessary. Serve warm with butter or cool, place in freezer bags, and store a day or two at room temperature. Slice in half, butter, and reheat in grill pan or skillet. Freeze for up to 2 months.
Cool the butter fast....Melt the butter in a 2 or 4-cup measuring cup in the microwave. (Cover with a plate or a paper towel.) Whisk in the cup of the buttermilk to cool the butter quickly. The mixture will thicken, but no problema. Then whisk the eggs and then the brown sugar into the buttermilk mixture. Saves time and bowls/dishwashing.
No buttermilk in the house? Real buttermilk is always better. But if you’re out…. Stir a tablespoon of lemon juice or plain white vinegar into a cup of milk and let rest for 10 minutes. Almost instant ersatz buttermilk!!
I use my dad’s big old ice cream scoop for muffins and I spray it with cooking spray for an easy release of the batter into the muffin cups.
Do you have a small off-set spatula (helpful for icing cupcakes and so on)? They’re really useful for getting muffins or cupcakes out of pans if you don’t want to bang the pan and flip it over with the courage of your convictions to get the baked goods out.
PAPER LINERS OR NOT? I’m in the decidedly NOT camp. Muffins deserve to keep their textural integrity intact and that happens only if you grease the muffin cups and the batter comes in contact with hot buttery metal to form the outside crispy crust that, once bitten into, gives way to the tender inside crumb. Paper liners, while easy, trap steam and therefore make for a softer and less colorful exterior layer. Be green, save money, and make tastier bread with no liners. Unless you just have to have the papers and, in that case, be my guest! (Some bakers love the paper liners for cupcakes and I get that. Cupcakes are different.)
If you liked this, you might also like my KIDS BAKING THANKSGIVING: CHEDDAR-CORNMEAL MUFFINS (GLUTEN FREE)…which includes links for Thanksgiving favorites at the top of the post.
Want some chili to go with these muffins for Halloween? Try my HOLD MY BEER SLOW COOKER CHILI.
LIFE GOES ON:
Click on the video below to see our 8-year old labradoodle Rosie (aka Bo-Bo) enjoying our almost-visible first snow flurries.
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