If asked to choose, I invariably pick sweet over savory. But I decided to go against my normal inclination for this month’s Baketogether corn muffin challenge, by joining “Team Savory” as Abby Dodge calls it.
First, I cruised through my refrigerator for inspiration and leftovers. My own mother taught me that home cooked food is all well and good, but using up leftovers is a true Mitzvah (good deed.) Needless to say, I found a few stray pieces of roasted red pepper (from my post earlier this week), giving me the foundation for a savory theme. Then I discovered a small piece of Jarlsberg cheese and some Kalamata olives (a staple in my salad-obsessed household) hiding in the deli drawer, along with a partial container of harissa remaining from a recent Middle Eastern carrot salad recipe. The makings for my savory corn muffins were at hand and I was almost ready to bake.
First though, I had to make one more deviation from the well-trod path – a substitute for buttermilk. Having recently (and successfully) used dried buttermilk powder plus water instead of buttermilk in my Baketogether scones, I decided to go down another alternate path to buttermilkiness. (Spell check went wild over that last non-word. But hey, it’s a blog, not an English exam and you know what I meant.)
To get ideas for other substitutes, I crowdsourced the question on twitter. Some of my tweeps like the lemon route, while others use white vinegar (putting a tablespoon of lemon or vinegar in slightly less than 8 ounces of milk, letting it sit for 5-10 minutes then stirring), and one person said she never substitutes.
No one mentioned using sour cream plus milk (an idea I got from Katie Goodman of Good Life Eats), so I decided to try that method. In place of ½ cup of buttermilk, I used slightly less than ⅓ cup of sour cream plus about 6 tablespoons of nonfat milk, mixed well, and left for about 10 minutes. The substitution seemed to work, though to be honest, I couldn’t tell if it gave the muffins the same taste as they would with “real” buttermilk because I didn’t do a controlled study.
I expected the muffins to taste spicier given that I used strong harissa, but that condiment is tricky because its heat grows over time and every batch is different. My husband said he couldn’t taste the harissa in the final result and voted to up it to ½ teaspoon (from ¼) next time.
The small pieces of olives and roasted red pepper were a nice touch – and if you like those flavors, you could even up the amounts of each by perhaps a teaspoon or so. I lowered the salt (from ¼ to ⅛ teaspoon) and was glad that I did; the olives are plenty salty in this version, even though I rinsed them. The Jarlsberg cheese melted into the batter. It was probably a good addition to the texture and overall taste, but not noticeable on its own.
My muffins baked for about 25 minutes, much longer to cook than Abby’s directions of 15-18 minutes. They were not overdone and my oven is well calibrated, so I’m not sure why the baking time was so different.
The bottom line is that my savory muffins are were great with our spicy sausages and steamed apples dinner last night, nicely textured and lovely right out of the oven. If you eat them the next day, be sure to reheat them - 5 minutes at 350 degrees in the toaster oven did just fine for me when I ate one this morning with my coffee.
Baketogether Savory Muffins
(with Harissa, Olives, & Roasted Red Pepper)
Makes 6 muffins
- ¾ cup all purpose flour
- ⅓ cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon table salt
- scant ⅓ cup sour cream + approximately 6 tablespoons milk (I used nonfat) at room temperature
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used safflower)
- ¼ teaspoon harissa (or more)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped Kalamata or other black oil-cured black olives
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped roasted red pepper
- 2 ounces Jarlsberg cheese, chopped in small cubes
Follow Abby’s directions, mixing the dry ingredients in a bowl, and separately the liquids. Add the harissa to the liquid ingredients, gently folding the liquids into the dry ingredients, and finally adding the olives, red pepper and cheese.
As with all muffins, the trick is to keep the mixing of liquids and solids to a minimum – no strenuous or long whipping, beating, or otherwise getting your frustrations out on this batter. The easiest way to portion the batter among the 6 muffin cups is to use two large spoons - one to pull out batter from the bowl and the second to push the batter off the first spoon. The batter is thick and sticky, so it won’t come easily off the first spoon. I garnished each muffin with small olive slice and a few small pieces of red pepper, but that’s just because I can’t leave well enough alone. The muffins are done baking when the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in one comes out clean.