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
- 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]
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
Domaine Chandon is a Napa Valley winery now owned by a French company. The setting is both beautiful and upscale. The winery features a Michelin-starred restaurant, étoile, that naturally features seasonal, regional food. The Domaine Chandon Cookbook offers 75 of the premium recipes from this restaurant with its particularly sparkling view.
Of all those recipes, this one is my favorite. Corn and crab seem to be one of those natural food marriages that can always be loved and almost certainly never surpassed. I know it’s summer, and it’s hot, so the idea of a warm soup may seem peculiar. But on the warmest of nights, everyone will sigh in delight at this bisque where both corn and crab flavor offer their distinct notes.
If you make this dish, consider doing it a day ahead if you want the crab flavor to evolve even more. I used canned crab from my good, local market. It seemed to need that extra day for its full flavor to emerge.
Since this recipe comes from a sparkling wine producer, the obvious pairing here is a glass a sparkling wine. And then? Perhaps a lamb chop and potato gratin. This bisque is strikingly elegant and deserves matching dishes of exceptional quality. And where would you find a good gratin recipe? Why Domaine Chandon has a three-cheese potato gratin, soon to be tested by Suzi and blogged by me.
Corn and Crab Bisque
Yield: serves 6
- ½ cup fresh chervil leaves, plus 2 tablespoons
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2tablespoons
- 1 leak, white part only, cut into rounds ¼ inch thick, rinsed and drained thoroughly
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
- 2 medium white potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 bottle clam juice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 ears fresh corn, husks and silks removed
- 1 pound fresh Dungeness or other lump crabmeat, picker over for shell fragments and cartilage
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Fresh ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
In a small sauté pan or frying pan over medium-low heat, combine the1/2 cup chervil leaves with the 1/2 cup olive oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the oil is hot and small bubbles around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Strain the chervil-infused oil through a fine-mesh sieve and reserve. Discard the chervil.
In a soup pot, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the leek and sauté until soft, about minutes. Stir in the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Sauté until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes and bell pepper and sauté for 3 minutes longer. Add the stock, clam juice, wine, and 1 teaspoon salt and stir to mix well. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the kernels from the ears of the corn. Add the corn kernels to the soup and simmer until the corn is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the crab and cook for 2 minutes to heat through. Stir in the cream and remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle the bisque into warmed bowls. Swirl 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chervil oil into each serving and garnish with the 2 tablespoons of chervil leaves. Serve hot.
Source: Domaine Chandon Cookbook
Photo Credit: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55mm Macro lens, F/2.8 for 1/80th second at ISO 160.