Monday, May 7, 2012

What does cornmeal do?

Around lunchtime on Sunday, hunger pangs dragged me away from the rag rug project that has been dominating my free time lately, and into the kitchen to feed myself. Beginning another project doesn't make the Edmonds Challenge disappear, though, so I decided to make cornmeal muffins (p27), for the sake of ticking off another recipe.

I'd always thought this recipe was intriguing, but only recently managed to get my hands on the requisite medium-ground cornmeal. It's not an ingredient I have much experience with, and I was interested to see how it would work in a muffin.

You start with butter, milk and the cornmeal in a saucepan, heating until the butter melts and you've got a thick cornmealy paste. I do not recommend tasting at this point: I did, and the cornmeal was so gritty and horrible that I was not optimistic about the coming muffins.

With the cornmeal mixture cooling to one side, I sifted flour, baking powder and salt together, stirred through a tiny amount of sugar, and added an egg. The egg was meant to be beaten before adding - I even had a little bowl there to do it in - but a lapse in concentration led me to crack it straight into the dry ingredients. I tried scooping it out to beat it, which, since a fair bit of flour came with it, was not a good idea. In the end I just chucked it back in the bowl.

I was supposed to wait until the cornmeal mixture was cool before I added it to the other ingredients, but I was too hungry and impatient. I carefully combined the two mixtures, and filled some muffin trays. Fifteen minutes later, I had warm cornmeal muffins ready to eat. A few slices of cheese and some mustard pickle, and my lunch was ready.

The muffins were ok, but fairly bland. They're clearly supposed to be eaten with something, as they'd be kinda boring by themselves. I'd worried the cornmeal was going to make them gritty, but instead the texture was quite soft - just a little crumbly. That crumbliness seems to be the only thing the cornmeal adds to the muffin - so really, what's the point?

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