Double Corn Muffins for Thanksgiving (& Every Other Day)

The corniest muffins take a sweet, savory cue from cornbread.

November 17, 2018
Photo by Posie (Harwood) Brien

Thanksgiving is a holiday about tradition. No other day elicits such fierce, firm opinions on food and cooking. You may have a favorite Christmas cookie or a dish your family always makes for the Fourth, but nothing tops the serious rituals around the Thanksgiving table.

But, without fail, when fall rolls around, food magazines splash fun, creative twists on Thanksgiving classics across their covers. And the thing is… I love reading them. Coming up with unique variations on simple, beloved recipes is a hard task, but there are always a handful that hit the mark. Inspired, I bookmark them—and then tuck them away for any day other than Thanksgiving.

Because my family sticks to the same menu every year. For as long as I can remember, we've made the same dishes, dropping some over time (the creamed onions, which no one but my oldest sister ate) and swapping around a few depending on what summer vegetables my mom grew and froze that year (sometimes corn, sometimes green beans, sometimes a mix). But the basics remain: turkey, of course, smothered in thick gravy laced with Cognac. Homemade cranberry sauce and buttery mashed potatoes. Stuffing—crisp and golden on the edges—packed with crunchy celery and soft onions. Pillowy pull-apart butter fan rolls. And for dessert: hot apple crisp with a glug of cold raw cream from our Jersey cows.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? So, you can understand why we don’t mess with a good thing.

But I can't help but come up with my own ideas, from gorgeous pies (cardamom-tahini-pumpkin!) to sides (harvest stuffing bread!). Thanksgiving Day is reserved the classics, but I make November a month of delicious—and innovative—cooking and baking.

Which brings me to today’s unique twist on cornbread, Double Corn Muffins. Cornbread—the type that teeters between savory and sweet—was the original inspiration for these muffins. I thought about the elements of cornbread that I love best: the tweedy texture from the cornmeal, the buttery crunchy edges, and the light crumb. All are present and accounted for in these muffins, but in a more elegant and memorable package. They’re like a basic corn muffin amplified, elevated, and larger than life.

In order to get a delicate, light crumb, I swap out the cornmeal for corn flour. You get all the corn flavor but the corn flour keeps the muffins fluffier than cornmeal can. I didn’t want to lose that lovely nubby texture of cornmeal, so I added a corn streusel on top for crunch. Testing the streusel with cornmeal was a fail; it yielded a dense, rather wet streusel. Back to the drawing board I went, until I hit upon a genius idea: freeze-dried corn. Crush this up into your streusel and you get crunch, salt, and sweet corn flavor all in one.

If you don’t make them for dinner, these muffins are equally great as a side for soup or salad (lunch or dinner) or for breakfast (with jam as a sweet option or split, toasted, and filled with bacon and smashed avocado).

We won’t be swapping out Mom’s traditional rolls this year, but I will be making these muffins again and again throughout the season. And as the years pass, they just might make it to our Thanksgiving table. But if your family is a little more relaxed about switching up the menu, I urge you to make these for the bread basket.

Do you stick to the classics for Thanksgiving or experiment with new dishes? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.