[Note from Serene: Once again, Chris brightens our Monday with a homey recipe he managed to find the ingredients for in the UK. A resourceful chap, our Chris.]
My mom occasionally used to make cornbread or corn muffins for us. They were from a box; I believe the brand was Jiffy—the box had blue sides and a white front panel with a picture of a delectable muffin on it.
Cornmeal was, for a long time, not something you could readily get here. It’s ethnic, and Brits find ethnic a bit challenging. However, as more Italians, South Americans, and Spanish people moved to the United Kingdom, items such as cornmeal ended up on our supermarket shelves.
When I saw a bag of cornmeal in our local supermarket a while back, I decided it was time to learn how to make corn muffins from scratch.
There are as many recipes for corn muffins as there are recipe websites and cookbooks. I think you can divide the recipes into two general categories: sweet corn muffins and savoury corn muffins. The sweet corn muffins have sugar added, and the savoury ones have either no sugar added, or a little bit only. The savoury ones often have additions such as jalapeño peppers, corn kernels, and the like. I prefer the sweet ones, but I cook with Splenda instead of sugar.
When baking, it’s important to stay close to the recipe. This is mostly true for the powdered ingredients and the wet ingredients (eg, the flour on the one hand and milk and egg on the other) but little variations are OK. In the recipe I link to below you will see “1 cup cornmeal”. I was at the end of the bag of cornmeal, and had slightly less than 1 cup. I just increased the amount of flour to make up for it. Whenever a recipe calls for sugar, you may use an equal amount of Splenda and get the same sweetening power, if you would rather not use sugar. You can’t bake with other artificial sweeteners as they degrade when heated. Baking is like playing with a chemistry set; the difference between a little heat from a reaction and an explosion can be a tiny amount more of one chemical or a tiny bit less of another.
I used this recipe, by Doug Matthews. If you’d like a different recipe, or a more adventurous one, do a web search on “corn muffin recipes” and you will have a jolly few hours going through all of the alternatives.
The batter will be lumpy after mixing. Don’t worry about that.
When you spoon it in, you will inevitably end up with a couple of runty muffins and a couple of overgrown muffins. I don’t suppose anyone who has bothered to read this far will find that surprising. I find that the first few tins I fill end up a bit small when baked, and the last few end up rather large. I normally put one spoonful of batter in each muffin cup, and then go back and try to divide the rest of the batter up 12 ways and put one extra spoonful in each cup. The small ones taste as good as the large ones, in my experience.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick or a small knife inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
They were very nice for our afternoon tea, halved and buttered, with coffee. They are not huge muffins; if you want huge muffins then probably doing 8 or even 6 instead of 12 will give you that. However, sometimes smaller is better as you have more muffins and more opportunities to eat them.
My mom used to make cornbread as well from that same Jiffy mix. If you want to do that, grease a square cake pan and just pour the batter into that. Bake until a toothpick or a small knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cut into squares and enjoy.