Muffins are just an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. Or at least, that applies to the kind of muffins I like to make, which should be tender, finely textured and almost sweet enough for dessert, but not quite.
These crunchy-topped, fruit-filled corn muffins fit the bill. Sweetened with brown sugar and flavored with vanilla, they’re their own reward for getting out of bed a little early, especially if you serve them warm, with softened butter on the side.
To make 10 to 12 muffins, butter a muffin pan, and heat your oven to 375 degrees. The slightly higher heat helps them turn golden brown and crisp a little at the edges.
In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup/120 grams cornmeal, ¾ cup/95 grams all-purpose flour, ¼ cup/55 grams brown sugar (light or dark, it doesn’t matter, or use granulated sugar), 2 teaspoons baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon fine sea salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together an egg, ¾ cup/180 milliliters buttermilk (or plain yogurt thinned with a little milk), and ½ cup/120 milliliters oil or melted butter. (I used sunflower oil, but I think olive oil would have been good, adding a savory note.) If you like, you can flavor the batter with a teaspoon of vanilla extract or ½ teaspoon grated lemon or lime zest, or leave it all out.
[See Melissa’s classic corn muffin recipe on NYT Cooking.]
Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ones, and mix a few times, just until it’s all incorporated. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups, filling them two-thirds of the way. I got 11 muffins when I made these this week, but since muffin pans are not perfectly standard, you might get one more or less.
Now, for the fun part: adding the fruit. I like to top my muffins with a selection of different fruit, using a few berries here, and slices of banana, peach or pineapple there. Use whatever soft fruit you have handy, but stay away from anything too hard (like apples) or too watery (like melon). You can add just enough fruit to cover the top, or poke some of the fruit into the muffin batter, hidden from view. Use one type of fruit per muffin, or mix and match. You can’t get it wrong, because it’s all so good.
Bake until the edges of the muffins are brown, 15 to 25 minutes. Then eat them while they’re warm and a little crumbly, smeared with butter or honey, or both. Definitely save any leftovers to have with your afternoon coffee or tea. They’re an early morning treat that you’ll want to savor all day long.
This is part of a series in which Melissa Clark teaches you how to cook with pantry staples. See more.