Suzi's Blog

Texas Corn Cream Muffins, Cement, and Concrete

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There are things I just always confuse: baking powder versus baking soda. Gee, I wonder why those buttermilk biscuits failed?

I’m always confused about concrete versus cement. One contains the other, but which is which? Right now there is a rumbling noise outside my window as a cement mixer is spinning so that the sidewalk can be repaired. No, actually, it is a concrete mixture. Concrete is made with cement. The cement is effectively the “paste” that holds aggregates of different kinds together. The Romans were the first masters of using concrete, not cement, creating structures that still stand.

Which leads me to my real topic: cornbread muffins. Especially the oversize ones you can encounter from those street carts selling bitter coffee, stale doughnuts, and gazunta cornbread muffins. Those street muffins have the structure of, well, concrete. Or maybe cement. They are not impossible to bite through so concrete may be too strong a term. But the muffins are inevitably dry and pasty, so I think comparing them to cement is perfectly legit.

Cement is good for us and our sidewalks. “Cementy” cornbread muffins are bad. Disgustingly bad.

When it comes to muffins, I am now trained to think of “big” as automatically “bad.” It’s not possible to make a muffin that is huge, tender, and tasty. Impossible.

And then there came along the book Piece of Cake: Home Baking Made Simple by David Muniz. Right there is a recipe for Texas Corn Cream Muffins. It’s suggested that although this recipe is for 12, you can bake it oversized in a pan that holds only 6. I suppose that is where the “Texas” label comes from.

But this recipe is intrinsically different, not just in name but in composition. First, you add a cup of corn [or creamed corn!]. It has double the liquid of a typical recipe and that liquid is heavy cream not buttermilk. And over twice the flour, 2 ⅓ cups, instead of just 1. For me, the “typical” and very good cornbread muffin recipe is found in The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon.

How can you have 3 cups of more stuff — corn, flour, and cream — and still get only 12 or 6 muffins? Won’t they all be gigantic? Isn’t this the pathway to denseness and that very pasty feel I hate?

No. These muffins are a miracle. Soft, tender, lazily falling apart as you apply butter and jam. The perfect consistency in your mouth, offering that warm cornbread flavor that seems endlessly homey. My perfect breakfast is one of these muffins, of either size, and hot chocolate. There’s enough sugar and caffeine there to get me to at least 10:30.

When we make these again, we are going to use the batter for 12, not 6. That picture above shows a 6-sizer and it is as big as one of those streetcar muffins. But a thousand times better.

If the Romans had had this recipe, the Empire surely would not have fallen. We would all still be speaking Latin. No NFL on Sundays, but we’d all buy muffins from stands outside the local coliseum as we await the arrival of the gladiators.

I love these muffins. So will you.

 

Texas Corn Cream Muffins

Yield: either 12 or 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup fresh or canned corn [or creamed corn]

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease 6 jumbo or 12 standard muffin cups with melted butter or pan spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the melted butter, cream, and eggs. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and mix just until the ingredients are combined and not lumpy. Add the corn or creamed corn [you can used dried fruit here, too].

This batter is quite thick, so don’t be alarmed. Use a large ice cream scoop or spoon, divide it evenly among the prepared cups.

Alternatively the batter can be made ahead and refrigerated in a covered container for up to 3 days. Just remember to add 3 to 5 minutes to the baking time to compensate for the chilled batter.

Bake larger muffins for 30 to 35 minutes and smaller muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Don’t panic if the edges are darker than the middle. That’s the way a cornbread muffin should look.

Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning them out to cool on wire racks.

Source: Piece of Cake by David Muniz

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55MM Macro lens, F/2.8 o 1/100 sec at ISO 1600

 

 

Butterscotch Roll-Up Cake for the 4th of July

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So, I begin with a mea culpa. I have a tough time frosting cakes. Mine never look like the ones in the book and it was the picture in the book that first drew me to this recipe.

But then there was more.

If you read this blog, you know that I am a sucker for roulades, those French-style sponge cakes that are long, rolled up, and filled with whipped cream, or ganache, or something that a modest sugar content. I love them.

This cake is a vertical roulade. You make the same cake, but you do don just role it long. You cut the cake into sections and roll them up one at a time to make one vertical cake that is wide, very wide.

The cake is lovely. The filling butterscotch sauce “diluted” with whipped cream.

I can envision this as just the dessert Nero had when he said, “Someone really should contact the fire department.”

This is a great cake. It’s Friday before a week with the 4th of July stuck on a Thursday. People are taking the week off, there are parties, there are brunches, there is heat, and there is a passionate need for a cool dessert. Here it is.

This wonderful idea comes from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson. If you bake, if you want to bake, you really need this book on your shelf. Awesomely inspiring.

Butterscotch Cream Roll-Up

Yield: serves 10-12

Ingredients:

Butterscotch Sauce:

  • 1/3 cup [3 ounces] salted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon whisky
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt

Cake:

  • 1 cup sifted cake flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  •  1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 4 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Filling:

  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream, cold
  • Heaping ½ cup natural sliced almonds, toasted

 

Preparation:

To make the butterscotch sauce: melt the butter over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Dump in the brown sugar all at once and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to simmer and changes from a wet sand consistency to a liquid that fives off a lovely molasses smell and looks like taffy, approximately 3 minutes from the time it comes to a simmer. Drizzle ¼ cup of the cream into the mixture and vigorously blend the cram into the sugar and whisk in the remaining cream. Turn the heat up to medium-high and allow the sauce to boil, whisking occasionally, until it has darkened, about 8 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the sauce to cool for a few minutes before adding the whisky, vanilla, and salt. Refrigerate until cold.

To make the cake: enter an oven rack and preheat the oven to 325⁰F.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and ¾ cup of the sugar in a large bowl, then whisk the ingredients by hand. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, yolks, water and vanilla. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and briskly stir with a rubber spatula until just smooth.

In the clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and gradually increase the speed to high, whipping until the whites just form a soft peak. With mixer on medium speed, gradually add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar in a slow stream. Return the mixer to high and continue whipping until the whites just begin to hold firm, shiny peaks.

With a rubber spatula, fold a third of the whites into he batter, using as few strokes as possible. Add the remaining whites, folding until incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top [this is best done with an offset spatula]. Place the pan in the oven. Bake the cake until it springs back when lightly touched and is barely golden in color, 16 to 20 minutes. Cool the cake on a wire rack until it reaches room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the filling by placing the bowl of a stand mixer and its whisk attachment in the freezer for 5 minutes. Fit the cold bowl and whisk to the mixer and whip the 1 ½ cups of cold heavy cream and 1 cup of the cold butterscotch sauce together on medium-low speed until the ingredients are blended. Gradually turn the mixer up to high speed and whip just until the cream holds soft peaks but is not yet stiff.

To and assemble the cake: keep the cake into its pan and orient the pan so the longer side is closed to you. Cut the cake with a serrated knife into four equal pieces measure 4 by 12 inches. Cut through the underlying parchment paper with a pair of scissors in the same places that you cut the cake so you have four quarters of cake [with parchment paper attached] that can each move independently.

Leaving the cake in the pan, spread a bit more than half of the butterscotch cram evenly over the cake and sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Refrigerate the remainder of the cream while you roll up the cake.

Here comes the fun part: rolling the cake! With the pan still oriented with the longer side closest to you, life up the nearest edge — both cake and paper — of one of your 4 strips. Using the parchment paper as the cake’s support, begin to tuck the cake into a roll and continue tucking [and peeling away the parchment paper] while gently rolling he cake away from you into a roll. Place the rolled cake upright on a serving plate, so the spiral of cake and filling is visible at the top. [Don’t worry, it gets easier from here.]

Line the next cake strip, using the parchment paper to support it, and wrap the strip around the roll on the serving plate, beginning where the outside edge of the first cake left off, in order to create a bigger roll. Continue with the next two strips, beginning the wrap where the last left off, to make one enormous rolled up cake.

Finish by frosting the sides with the reminder of the cream [you might need to give the cream a few turns with a hand whisk to stiffen it up], leaving he top free to show of the spiral of cake and cream. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour and up to one day, lightly wrapped in plastic. Just before serving, warm the remaining butterscotch sauce and drizzle it over the individual servings.

Well wrapped and refrigerated, this cake keeps up to 3 days. [Brian comment: yeah, sure, it’s gonna last that long!]

 

Source: Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

Photo Credits: Canon T2i, 18-55MM Macro lens, F/2.8, 1/30th second, ISO 3200 and 1600 respectively

 

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