Saturday, January 28, 2012

Restart - Corn Muffins

So, I just found out that the oven has no window.  How will this ever satisfy an eternally curious soul like mine?  My mum calls the pup bat gua, which in Cantonese means "curious about things that have nothing to do with you."  I wonder if I'm the same, although I have a rather more vested interest in whether my muffins are burning than the pup's interest in my latest cake.

It's been a while since I last posted, due mostly to the onset of stress.  During the winter I meant to bake and blog a great deal more than I did, but applying to scholarships and internships, working, trying to study for next semester's classes and wanting to see my friends got in the way.  I even considered pausing this blog for a while, growing more and more despondent over my food situation.  In the fall of 2011, I lived in a dormitory room with a kitchen for 200 people and a mandatory, expensive meal plan, trying to avoid the greasy, overcooked and under-seasoned mess that passes for campus food.  

A pleasant eggy aroma filled the air as I pulled them out of the window-less oven.
This semester, however, fortune brought me a room in a lovely apartment on campus, the ability to shop and cook for myself, and a nice view of the parking lot.  Last Wednesday, I finally found the opportunity to purchase groceries and sat down at the table to crunch into an apple.  Three months past apple season, it was still pure bliss.  Honey-sweet at the first bite, slightly tangy closer to the core, the juice burst from the apple onto my tongue.  No apple on campus even compares.  Besides, the apple cost almost half of what the pale, tired, overpriced apples on campus would have.  

With groceries and a kitchen at my disposal, it's far past time to bake.  I've cooked for breakfast, lunch and dinner, only splurging on a date with my boyfriend last night (our first real date in 5 weeks!).  Macaroni and cheese from Pioneer Woman (halving the recipe, and still making enough for 5 people!), brown rice and sauted mushrooms, roasted broccoli with some guidance from Alton Brown, simply oatmeal on the stove (oops, too much water, made 6 cups...).  There are leftovers enough to feed me for the next four days, and I love it.

So, of course, this morning I felt like cold cereal and milk.  Okay.  But see, I made up for it!  I made corn muffins!  I've made this recipe before, but usually in my 9" round cake pan where it is supposed to go.  I don't have any square pans, just a 9" x 13" and a 12-cup muffin pan, so muffins it was.  Also because I'd rather have 12 small, portable edible items than 1 large one that scatters crumbs everywhere, plus you still have to wash the thing.  Cupcake wrappers it is :) 

I found the recipe on AllRecipes, the top-rated item if you search "cornbread."  I'm fond of it since it's very simple, and easily adapts.  In my case, I haven't gotten around to buying butter (gasp!), but I do have vegetable oil for cooking.  I also reduced the sugar, and the result is a sturdy little chunk of sunny, corny sustenance, crisp on top and somewhat soft on the inside.  They would be softer with less cornmeal and more flour, I think, but that's part of their charm.  My one note would be that they get rather dry after the first day.  I'm still trying to fix this.  Oh, look, my suitemate just grabbed one as she went out the door, and will be the first tester of the bunch.  My friend is picking me up at 2pm to get more groceries for the week, and will be my second.  Ah, I enjoy having varied tasters again who are not related to me...

A compact little bit of sunshine in my day.

Corn Muffins adapted from
Makes 12 muffins, or 1 8" square pan

½ cup vegetable oil (canola if you have it, or melted butter)
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (substitute with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar and regular milk)
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt

1 large (medium works) mixing bowl
1 rubber spatula
½ teaspoon measure
½ cup dry measure 
1 cup dry measure (optional, 2 halves make a whole, obviously, you roll your eyes at me)
2-cup liquid measure
1 12-cup cupcake pan 
12 cupcake liners (optional, but I was lazy and didn't want to scrub another pan) 


1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Line the cupcake tin with liners, or grease. 

2. In the large/medium bowl, mix the oil and sugar.  If using lemon juice or vinegar to make buttermilk, mix it in the measuring cup now.  Add the eggs to the oil and sugar and mix until thoroughly combined. 

3.  Mix the baking soda into the buttermilk, then stir it into the eggs mixture.  Add the cornmeal, flour and salt, then stir until there are only a few lumps remaining.  Fill each cupcake tin cup almost all the way up.  You should have 12 muffins.

4. Bake at 375°F for about 20 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack.  They stick to the wrappers if eaten right away, but it's rather worth it.  Enjoy!

Sturdy and filling, a perfect afternoon snack.  Or a mid-morning one :)

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