Cornbread Muffins with Maple Butter

I already got the Thanksgiving ball rolling with these savory squash pancakes, but as you know, they were accidental, not on my Thanksgiving List filled with recipes to share with you, and thus an added bonus recipe of sorts (you're welcome!) So, here goes the first official post for Thanksgiving, and consider yourself warned: in the next few weeks I'll (temporarily) set aside my Italian recipes in favor of American Thanksgiving classics like mashed potatoes, apple pie, and a pumpkin cheesecake, among others, plus an idea or two of what to do with your inevitable Thanksgiving leftovers. Italian name and years lived in Italy or not, I take my Thanksgiving holiday very, very seriously.

So! Thanksgiving can be divided up into a few main categories: there's a lot of talk about the Turkey on Thanksgiving, of course -- there's no feast without a turkey, dark meat, white meat, gravy and all. There's a good amount of attention given to the sides, the aforementioned buttery rich mashed potatoes, the slightly shameful but strangely delicious sweet potato marshmallow casserole, the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink stuffing, the creamy mushroom spiked green bean casserole, and the (sometimes curiously lined, from a can) cranberry sauce. And then there's dessert, traditionally comprised of the Thanksgiving Pie Trinity, ooey gooey pecan pie and spicy, cinnamon-y pumpkin and apple pie. 

Turkey, sides, and pie, right? Exactly. You too will have inevitably noticed a gap here as well, I assume. But what about the bread basket?! you must be wondering! Bread is after all the most basic of foods and a fixture on any table for any meal, and for a day that is all about breaking bread and giving thanks with your friends and family, well, I think it deserves a little attention this November 24th -- especially when it offers so much delicious potential. Bread on the last Thursday of November means the opportunity for a basket full of Parker House rolls, Clover Leaf Rolls, Boston brown bread, buttermilk biscuits, or best of all, cornbread, or for today's purposes, cornbread baked in a muffin tin.

If you're not from the States and thus not familiar with cornbread, here are the Cliff notes: it is a quick bread (no yeast) made with cornmeal ("kind of like polenta in a cake form," is how I've explained this to my Italian friends). It can be very sweet or just barely sweet, depending on how much sugar you add, and is versatile, easily eaten for breakfast, or served as an accompaniment to chili or stew, or if you'd like, on the table as part of your Thanksgiving menu. Enter these cornbread muffins, which are so good you'll wonder how you ever had Thanksgivings before without them: they're melt-in-your mouth tender, save for the golden and slightly crunchy muffin top, sweet and honey-tinged, and, just when you thought things couldn't get any better, insanely delicious when served with a swirl of maple butter (you'll have noticed that we Americans have no problem mixing savory and sweet). They are miles away from the afterthought that bread on the table risks to be, proving they deserve a place in the Hall of Thanksgiving Fame or a spot on your menu this year, for starters. Added bonus: in a whirlwind of fussy do-it-yourself gravy, homemade pie crust and hours of turkey roasting (is it done?! is it not done?!) these are a welcome break, a breeze to put together, too just a matter of whisking ingredients in a bowl. They bake up in less than 20 minutes and the recipe doubles easily too if you're serving a big crowd (which I imagine you are, on Thanksgiving). But I'm pretty sure I had you at maple butter, anyways.

A couple of notes: If you don't have a muffin tin, you can bake this in a square 9-inch baking dish and cut it into squares, giving you cornbread instead of cornbread muffins. If you want you can substitute the honey for the maple syrup to make honey butter, or feel free to serve these with just regular butter (salted or unsalted). If you do choose to use maple syrup, make sure it is good quality (not just regular pancake syrup) to get the best maple flavor. Swept away in a wave of maple butter enthusiasm, I completely forgot to take pictures during that step (thankfully it's just a matter of beating together the syrup with the butter and step by step photos aren't crucial!) If you want muffins that are on the less sweet side, feel free to reduce the sugar from 1/2 cup to 1/3 or even less than that. Finally, my apologies for the slightly gray photos, but these were made last weekend, during a day of torrential downpours and wind here in Rome. I choose the recipes, not the weather!

If you too get really excited about planning menus and are already planning your Turkey Day soiree, here are a few other favorite recipes I've posted in previously, to get you started (not surprisingly, there's a lot of dessert): Sausage, Apple, and Apricot Stuffing, Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette, Herb Roasted Purple and Orange CarrotsSavory Squash Pancakes, Peanut Butter PiePumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie, Brownie Pie, Pecan Pie Bars, Apple Crisp, Best Ever Apple Cake, Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake, Pear Chocolate Custard Tart, and Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake. Looking for other quick bread or muffin recipes? I've got Pumpkin Bread, Blueberry Muffins, Nutella Banana Muffins, and Apple Cinnamon Muffins. Looking for more cornmeal-y recipes? How about some Polenta with Funghi or Cornmeal Blueberry Pancakes?

CORNBREAD MUFFINS WITH MAPLE BUTTER

Ingredients for the muffins:
3/4 cup (132 grams) cornmeal
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1 1/4 cups (about 135 grams) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (11 grams) baking powder
3/4 cup (185 grams) whole milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons (36 grams) honey
8 tablespoons (1 stick or 112 grams) butter

Ingredients for the maple butter:
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons or 168 grams) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Directions:
Begin by whisking your dry ingredients -- the cornmeal, sugar, flour, salt, and baking powder together in a large bowl. 
Next, whisk together your wet ingredients -- the milk, eggs, honey, and melted butter -- in a medium bowl. 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Pour the muffin batter into a buttered 12 cup muffin pan (or two 6 cup muffin pans if you have a small oven, like I do).
Bake the muffins for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, no batter in sight. While your muffins are baking, make the maple butter by beating together the softened butter with the maple syrup in a medium bowl. Scrape into a serving dish. Let the muffins cool slightly before serving warm with the maple butter. Makes 12 muffins.

Muffin recipe from www.onceuponachef.com.




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