A lot of my posts recently have involved bacon. This one does too. With a nod to Harley Morenstein, bacon has been an omnipresent food trend for the last few years and I don’t see any end to the savory pork strip onslaught in the near future. While baconphilia has produced an incredible spectrum of twists on classic dishes – donuts, brussel sprouts, even sushi – with mostly positive reception, there is another seasonal trend this fall that is extremely polarizing. I am, of course, talking about pumpkin spice. Beginning with the Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks in 2003, the obsession with this delicious flavor that evokes visions of multicolored trees and scarves has taken off astronomically. Even Harry Potter’s first drink at Hogwarts was pumpkin juice. While you will never catch me in public with a pumpkin flavored drink, Starbucks did introduce me to one of my favorite treats I often make starting around October: the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin. This gem and/or calorie bomb combines the wonderful flavors of allspice to the richness of cream cheese. I’ve seen my friends eat five of these muffins at a time. But what if you’re like me and lack a major sweet tooth? Well, if I may be so bold as to offer a solution, I present to you Habanero Bacon Cornbread muffins.
Cornbread muffins have been around forever, and you can pretty much find them anywhere that has a meat and three or just plain down home Southern cooking. The twist here then is the addition of cream cheese to the middle of each bite. This is Texas though, so we need something better than just plain Kraft Philadelphia. This is where my favorite pepper comes in, the habanero. The key to making good habanero cream cheese is letting the whole mixture sit overnight. The longer it sits, and this is true for most spicy things, the more flavor and capsaicin is absorbed into the mixture. This is why the recipe below requires at least a day of pre-prep before the actual muffins are made. Besides the habaneros, I threw in some scallions from my garden, along with (surprise, surprise) bacon, and the extra jalapeño I had left over from making the muffins. Honestly, you could stop after making the cream cheese and just make next level bagel sandwiches but people have been schmearing interesting spreads on bagels for years.
By the time you get done with the whole cooking process you have a cornbread muffin that could hold its own anywhere, but with addition of the cream cheese center you have upped the expectations for how cornbread should taste for everyone that tries one. The only downside to these muffins is that they are definitely much better warm then they are cold; then again, this is nothing 20 seconds in a microwave cannot fix.
Habanero Cream Cheese
- 24 oz of cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup diced habanero peppers
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions
- 1/4 cup chopped jalapeño (optional)
- 3/4 cup chopped, cooked bacon
- 1 1/2 cups finely ground yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/4 teaspoons fine salt
- 2/3 cup corn kernels, thawed if frozen
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pickled jalapeños
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), melted, plus more for coating the pan
- Mix all ingredients into the cream cheese well in a bowl. Refrigerate over night.
- Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat the wells of a 12-well muffin pan with butter and set it aside for now.
- Place the cornmeal, 1/2 cup of the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine
- Place the corn and jalapeños in a bowl, add the remaining tablespoon of flour, and toss to combine
- Place the milk and eggs in a medium bowl and whisk until the eggs are broken up. Pour the milk mixture and melted butter into the cornmeal mixture and, using a rubber spatula, stir until just incorporated and no streaks of butter remain. Keep it grainy. Add the corn and jalapeños and stir until just combined.
- Divide the batter among the prepared muffin wells about 1/3 of the way up.
- Spoon a dollop of the cream cheese mixture in the middle of each well on top of the batter. Fill the rest of well with the remaining batter.
- Bake until golden brown around 15 to 17 minutes. The toothpick method doesn’t work here because there is cream cheese in the middle Let the muffins cool in the pan for around 5 minutes. Serve warm.