Ah, life with a pre-schooler. Last year, Dahlia loved all things corny - both in terms of her sense of humor and her taste in vegetables. She ate caramelized creamed corn faster than I could make it (and I can make it fast). She nibbled the kernels raw off the cob, and gobbled corn that was steamed and buttered.
This summer, corn is off the list. Just like that. Poof. One day she ate 2 ears of corn at my parents' house for lunch, and then ever since, she shakes her head when I offer her any, with the polite "no thank you" that really means "get this stuff out of my face or I will freak out and you'll be sorry."
What this means is that I've bought an awful lot of corn that's gone uneaten by said small child -- despite the fact that her jokes are getting even cornier.
Fear not though, none one kernel of the corn went to waste. Because now when I've got lots of corn in the house, I make a very adult corn salad. Or I fold the kernels into cornbread -- or in this case, corn muffins.
(Dahlia loves shucking corn even if she's lukewarm on consuming the stuff...)
I love cornbread in all its forms, but I have to admit to having a favorite recipe. In the version from my book, In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, I brown the butter for the batter (say that 5 times fast while munching on a piece of cornbread) and bake it in a cast-iron skillet. It's crusty on the outside and moist within, with a nutty flavor suffused throughout the crumb.
Sometimes, I go the muffin pan route. There’s something so appealing about little individual cornbreads—they’re ready-made for snacking. Loaded with maple syrup flavor from both syrup and maple flavored yogurt (but not quite sweet enough for dessert), these muffins are light, fluffy, and barely hold together once you break them apart. The antithesis of a heavy, sweet, diner-style corn muffin, they make great little breakfast breads, and they are perfect with that afternoon cup of tea (or iced tea).
To take them into more decisively savory territory, you could add some black pepper, cayenne, chopped jalapeno, grated cheese…use your imagination here. This said, their texture is a bit too delicate to dunk into a hearty bowl of chili. But they’d be great alongside a fresh, light soup, or a juicy tomato salad with some ricotta for smearing on the muffins.
Of course I just go for a heavy smear of butter. Have some soft, slightly-salted butter at the ready--it's all you really need. These cornbread muffins are so tender and crumbly they almost fall apart in your hands, but their sweet crumb is so, so worth it.
And by the way, Dahlia won't touch them. Which means more for me.
Fresh Corn Muffins with Maple Syrup
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 ear corn, kernels removed (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk maple yogurt (or use plain yogurt and add an extra tablespoon or two of syrup)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat and cook until golden with a nutty fragrance, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to let it get too brown. Add the corn and maple syrup and cook, stirring, until the corn is tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, which together the yogurt, egg, sugar, and baking soda. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones until just combined. Fold in the corn-butter mixture.
3. Spoon batter into a greased muffin pan, about two-thirds full into each well. Bake for 15-20 minutes until muffins spring back when lightly pressed with a finger and are pale golden on top. This are great warm, and nearly as good cooled, and will last for days in stored airtight at room temperature. The maple flavor gets stronger the longer they sit.