Bacon, Cheese, and Pepper Muffins

The moment I saw these bacon onion cheddar biscuits, I knew I wanted to make something similar. Not biscuits though but muffins. For brunch. I went through the ingredients and realized that sugar was not listed, and I was ninety percent certain that my girls would balk. When I make savory pies, I add a little sugar because they don’t like plain salted crusts. A muffin is an even more serious issue. I tried to decide how much risk I was willing to take tweaking the recipe blindly. Then, I remembered. Somewhere on the shelves is a little cookbook called Baking (from the Essential cooking series, Hinkler Books) that Alex gave me for a birthday (or was it Christmas?) gift a few years ago. And in that cookbook is a recipe for cheese and pepper muffins. I decided I was going to combine the two recipes.

I was posting messages on Twitter and Facebook right after I ate a muffin and I described the experience as having died and going to muffin heaven. I’m probably going to get blamed for ruining everyone’s diet in this house but these muffins are delicious! The saltiness of the bacon, the natural sweetness of the onion and bell pepper, the addition of a little sugar… they all went wonderfully together to make something I can’t quite describe but can’t help but eat (it’s been three and a half hours since the muffins have come out of the oven and I have eaten three so far). And the texture! Because of the addition of yellow cornmeal, the texture is more dense than most muffins but it stayed soft and moist inside because of the butter, the natural juices of the vegetables, the cheese, and the little bacon fat.

Pan-fry the bacon in a non-stick pan. No need to add oil as the bacon will render its fat. Cook until the bacon fat starts to turn transparent. Add the chopped onion. Stir and cook for about two minutes or until the onion bits start to soften. Add the chopped bell pepper and continue cooking, with occasional stirring, for another minute or two. When the bits of bell pepper soften, turn off the heat, strain the mixture to get rid of the excess fat, and let the mixture cool while you prepare the batter. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the sugar and the cornmeal and stir to combine.

To the flour mixture, add the grated cheese and chopped onion. Toss gently (I used my fingers) so as not to squish the cheese. Place the softened butter in a large mixing bowl. Beat with a wire whisk until light. Add the eggs and beat for about a minute. If small lumps of butter remain, don’t worry “This is muffin batter, and you” re not aiming for a superfine texture.

Butter the holes of the muffin pan. Use a brush if you wish. I used my fingers.

The capacity of each mold of my muffin pan is 1/3 cup so I poured a quarter cup of the batter into each hole. If you’re using a pan with a different capacity, make the adjustments. Just remember to pour just enough batter to reach about 4/5 of the mold. Tap the pan gently on the counter to make sure that there are no air pockets inside.

The muffins are fully baked after 25 minutes but if you prefer them crustier and more browned, bake for another five minutes. During baking the butter that coats the pan sort of fries the bottom and sides of the muffins. Some of the butter even comes out through the batter and spreads lightly on the surface which gives a muffin top a very light crust. As soon as they can be handled, run a blunt knife around each muffin to release it from the mold. Serve warm by themselves or with a salad or soup. These are heavy muffins and I really can’t imagine pairing them with another heavy dish.