Lighter baking with extra virgin olive oil
Home-baked favourites can easily be made lighter and healthier by substituting with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Baking with EVOO almost always creates a light golden brown crust on loaves and muffins, keeping the insides fluffy and moist while imparting the lovely crisp edges. A general rule of thumb is to substitute three-quarters of the required amount of butter with olive oil. For example, if the recipe calls for 8 tablespoons of butter, use 6 tablespoons of olive oil, instead. Furthermore, when a complementary EVOO profile is used it can enhance and highlight the overall flavour of the cakes, loaves, cookies and muffins.
In this Olive Oil Cornbread Muffin recipe below, we also subbed buttermilk for an easy alt-dairy version which gives us room to add our favourite combinations of cheeses without making the muffins too rich or heavy.
Olive oil matching
Cornbread is mostly a savoury fare to us, eaten with the US South, South-western or Tex-mex cuisine. Therefore, we tend to use the spiciest, pepperiest EVOO we have in the kitchen. We love using a green fruity intense oil made from Frantoio, Coratina, Hojiblanca or Koroneiki olive varietals. Avoid the oil varietals with a pronounced bitterness such as Picual.
How to make this:
Makes 12 muffins
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose / plain flour (level off flour in the measuring cup, not heaped)
- ¾ yellow cornmeal flour
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 to 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (adjust according to preferred sweetness)
- Alt-buttermilk: 1 cup soy milk plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice stirred in (or go traditional, use 1 cup buttermilk)
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus a little more for brushing muffin tin
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (best if roughly hand-grated from a block) OR a combo of grated Parmesan and crumbled mature cheddar.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C or fan 160°C. Brush a 12-hole muffin tin lightly with extra virgin olive oil or use an olive oil spray. We prefer not to line with paper muffin cups in order to enjoy the gorgeous golden crust all over.
- Wet ingredients: in a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, olive oil, alt-buttermilk, maple syrup until well mixed. Set aside.
- Dry ingredients: in a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Fold with spatula until blended completely and no more dry streaks.
- Fold in the cheese until evenly distributed into the batter.
- Spoon batter evenly into the prepared muffin tin about ¾ full each hole. Muffins will rise and peak a little when baking. Don’t worry if you see the olive oil rise to surface as you scoop the batter in, if you chose to brush the tin with oil instead of using a spray.
- Bake in preheated oven for 16 to 18 minutes, or until tops have peaked and cracked a little and takes on a golden brown hue. You can also pierce the centre of one muffin to check that it comes out clear, to be sure. Watch the muffins the whole time to avoid burning them as different oven behave differently.
- Cool the muffins for a 10-15 minutes in the muffin tin after removing from oven. When they’re cooler to touch, transfer them onto a cooling rack to be cooled further before storing away. Alternatively, serve them right away warm.
Serve as accompaniment to a Tex-mex chilli or tortilla soup or on its own with a drizzle of maple syrup or butter. Also great as a breakfast item with eggs and bacon. Best served warm, so you can just pop them into the microwave for at medium (or 50% power) for 30 seconds.
- If you prefer to make this a cornbread instead of muffins, line a 20cm square, 4cm deep baking tin or 11cm x 22cm loaf tin with baking paper. Bake the same recipe batter in the same oven settings for 25 to 30 minutes or until the skewer pierced comes out clean and top has risen and cracked and golden brown.
- Make a spicier version by adding one tablespoon chopped fresh jalapeno or a herby one with chopped fresh sage, which can be especially great with EVOO. There are myriad ways to get creative!