Monday, February 14, 2011

Magic Muffins

With all the talk these days about wheat allergies, gluten intolerance and celiac disease, it was nice to read a story about how muffins improved a little girl’s life. Nice because it bolstered my up-on-muffins weekend, adding to the already-good feeling of having brought some pretty serious corn muffins to a chili potluck this weekend.
And nicer, I’d say, because Jermome Groopman’s The Peanut Puzzle, published in last week's New Yorker, is one of a handful of articles I have read in the last few months that cover investigations about what we might be doing as a culture to impact childhood allergies. All seem to point to a solution that includes fewer diet restrictions and a simpler way of keeping kids healthy.

In The Peanut Puzzle, Groopman explores the growing incidence of food allergies, and doctors’ changing wisdom on what causes allergies and how to prevent them. Scientists are questioning whether the guidelines to delay children’s exposure to common allergens (dairy, peanuts, shellfish, etc.) actually reduce incidents of allergies. Some studies indicate that perhaps the opposite is more effective—that exposing children at a young age to peanuts and dairy may help ward off related allergies. And in the case of the girl and the muffins—a seven year old with a severe dairy allergy—slow introduction of baked goods with dairy helped reduce her reaction to cheese and enabled her to enjoy pizza.

While my corn muffins with coriander, Poblanos and white cheddar didn’t cure anyone of any ailments, they were rich, moist, and flavorful, and tasted great with a big bowl of beefy chili. Give them a try, and I’ll keep reading as we aim to solve the peanut puzzle and get a handle on allergies.

Coriander Corn Muffins
1 T coriander seeds
1/3 cup flour
2/3 cup medium grind yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1½ cups sharp white cheddar, grated
1½ cups frozen corn

  • Char the pepper over a flame, cool it in a closed paper bag, and rub off the charred skin. Remove the stem, seeds and ribs, and dice.
  • Toast the coriander in a dry pan over medium heat until aromatic. Grind the seeds in a mortar and pestle.
  • Mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and coriander in a bowl. Mix the butter, eggs and buttermilk in a separate bowl. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Stir in the Poblanos, cheese and corn.
  • Spoon the batter into medium muffin tins lined with parchment paper or muffin cups. Bake at 375° for 20 – 25 minutes.

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