Cooks Illustrated Corn Muffins with Spelt

January 4, 2014 · 7 comments

Rick woke up this morning with a hankering for corn muffins (Cook’s Illustrated recipes—free!—below) and a first-ever desire to bake them himself.

Kitchen Clean Up-5Rick, it turns out, is an excellent baker with an inborn understanding that the techniques and tools involved are just as important to producing fine results as are high quality ingredients and a tried-and-true recipe.

Great muffin tin recommended by Cook’s Illustrated? Check.
Best free range butter Broulim’s grocery store carries? Check.
World’s best corn muffin recipe from Baking Illustrated? Check.

Kitchen Clean Up-812 foil baking cups? Whoops…

A dig through the baking cupboard revealed we only had 11 of the foil/paper combination type that I had actually bought by accident, and even then we only had six of the papers that nest inside the foil liners.

Kitchen Clean Up-9While this was Rick’s first muffin rodeo, I have been on the circuit for decades.

Out of a desire to both have my muffins and eat them too, I have always used the paper muffin tin liners so the darned things release in one piece and I don’t spend more time washing up than I did eating. However, Cook’s prep instructions specifically state: “Grease a standard muffin tin and set aside.”

Kitchen Clean Up-1

What… no liners? I went to Cook’s online video on the subject which explained that they don’t like having to pick the paper off the muffins, and that the “lovely brown crust” stays on the paper and not in their mouths, which is where they apparently prefer it.

My experience has been that without the papers, the “lovely brown crust” often clings to the tin with a tenacity that takes several hours of soaking to discourage.

What to do?! Go with decades of my own muffin experience or decades of America’s Test Kitchen muffin experience?

Kitchen Clean Up-3

We decided on an “all of the above” approach, using six foil/paper combos, five straight foil cups, and one unlined hole as our “grease it and see what happens” experiment. (In one of their super-helpful sidebars in the cookbook, Cook’s recommends putting the muffin tin inside the dishwasher to apply cooking spray. Any overspray—and there WILL be overspray, which is why we rarely use it—will be washed away the next time you run the beast.)

As you can see above, both the “foil only” (right) and greased samples retained their delicious brown loveliness right where we wanted it. Cook’s was right about the paper, though: removing the paper also denuded the muffins of the crust.

Eureka! Going forward, our muffins will be hatched using the foil liners on their own. Winston, the paper-lovin’ poodle, will be given the paper portions to keep him amused and out of the kitchen while Rick is baking.

Kitchen Clean Up-4
Enough with the camera already… time for breakfast!

Here’s the recipe, adapted from Baking Illustrated:


  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces) (We substituted 2 cups of spelt: perfect!)
  • 1 cup fine-ground, whole-grain yellow cornmeal (4 1/2 ounces) (Stone-ground whole cornmeal has a richer flavor than regular)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (check the date: if older than a year, buy new stuff)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (ditto above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray (see dishwasher tip above).

2. Whisk dry ingredients in medium bowl to combine; set aside.

3. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl until well combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds. Add sugar to eggs; whisk vigorously until thick and homogenous, about 30 seconds; add melted butter in 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition. Add half the sour cream and half the milk and whisk to combine; whisk in remaining sour cream and milk until combined.

4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients; mix gently with rubber spatula until batter is just combined and evenly moistened. Do not over-mix.

5. Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide batter evenly among muffin cups, dropping it to form mound. Do not level or flatten surface of mounds.

6. Bake until muffins are light golden brown and skewer inserted into center of muffins comes out clean, about 18 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in tin 5 minutes; invert muffins onto wire rack, stand muffins upright, cool 5 minutes longer, take a bajillion photos, but remember to stop in time to serve these puppies while they’re still warm, preferably with fresh hot coffee, aged cheddar cheese, and a perfect Pink Lady apple.

Yummi June 24, 2015 at 2:52 am

Hmmm, that tastes very good

Susan January 6, 2014 at 3:25 pm

I’ve been known to spray muffin tins out on the deck to avoid greasing up the kitchen window, counter, etc. (although this tactic is only really possible about half the year here). I also have played around with the liner liner approach. It actually really depends on the recipe. I am eager to try this yummy recipe of yours now that I shamelessly ate the last shortbread the other day, which was the official Last Piece of Christmas baking in the house.

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