Some will accuse these of being cupcakes in a cunning disguise. I plan to ignore such naysayers, cynics, and out-of-work poets and enjoy my muffins without worrying about semantics. The cream cheese buds that crown these muffins do resemble pearls, but the gems - the dabs of jam - are hidden inside. Freeze a whole batch of these for breakfast on the run. In a pinch, call them cupcakes and serve them for dessert. Just don't tell me about it.
Gem and Pearl Breakfast Muffins
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted [I always use salted] butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 large egg
Jam or preserve of your choice
Cream cheese or Neufchâtel cheese (Unfortunately, low-fat versions tend to "melt" while baking, leaving you with a hole in your muffin. I call such muffins "Stolen Pearl Muffins" and they taste great, but don't look very nice.)
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling, optional
1. Preheat your oven to 375ºF.
Grease 12 muffin cups with vegetable shortening or nonstick cooking spray [what I did] or line them with paper.
2. Sift the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
Separately whisk together the milk, butter, and egg.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir quickly until everything is just combined - there should still be some tiny lumps in the batter.
3. Fill each muffin cup one-third full with batter.
In the middle of each cup place about 1 teaspoon of jam or preserves.
It helps to make a little well in the batter to hold the jam, otherwise it may leak out the sides of the muffin.
On the other hand, don't make a well so deep that the jam's actually resting right on the metal of the muffin pan.
4. Fill the muffin cups with the rest of the batter, so that each cup is about two-thirds full.
Smooth the batter tops to cover any jam that may be peeking through.
Take teaspoon-size balls of cream cheese (a melon scoop works well) and push one into the top of each muffin.
Don't push them too far - just so they're about half buried.
Sprinkle turbinado sugar [I used regular sugar] over the muffin tops, if desired.
5. Bake the muffins for 18-20 minutes, until golden and firm.
Jeremy offers some alternatives:
Berry Muffins: Instead of jam and cream cheese, stir 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, or other berries into the batter.
Cherry-Chocolate Muffins: Instead of jam and cream cheese, stir in 1/2 cup dried cherries and 1/2 cup semisweet, bittersweet, or white chocolate chips.
You may well ask, where's the jam?
I think it must have sunk down through the muffin into the pan. And that's why they were a little tough to remove. But it matters not at all. These are great muffins! Don't be afraid to try them. They are fun to make, and delicious to eat regardless of how they cook.