I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it but I belong to an online community called Chowhounds. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Or even belong yourself. Chowhounds live all over the world and get together in forums categorized by either location or interest. You can sign up to get emails about trending discussions with articles from Chowhound writers about a myriad of food related topics or you can go directly to the forums to interact. And it's all free! I’ve received (and given) advice about ingredients and restaurants and cooking methods over the last couple of years, but my favorite part of Chowhound is finding out about new ingredients.
Last spring, just before I was headed to Providence to spend Spring Break with my daughters, I read about bacon salt in a Chowhound email. It wasn't so new, just new to me! All natural, smoky bacon flavored salt that is vegetarian. I was so excited! Because, as you have read here, both daughters (and many of their friends) are vegetarian. When I cook for them, I miss the addition of bacon for depth and flavor. Especially in dishes with beans. Here, finally, was my answer! This week’s Muffin Monday recipe was for a cheese onion muffin and I really wanted to add in bacon, but I have been sending these off to the office with my husband (apparently Sundays are their favorite day now) and several of his colleagues don’t eat pork. Bacon salt to the rescue! I made the batter with the bacon salt and then added the optional bacon into the batter once some of the muffin cups had been filled. So, everyone could have a muffin!
5-6 slices or rashers smoked bacon (optional)
2 medium onions
2/3 cup or 150ml canola or other light oil
1 1/8 cup or 265ml buttermilk
1 large egg
3 cups or 375g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon bacon salt or substitute Maldon Smoked Sea Salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
150g mature cheddar
280g smoked cheese
Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare your 12-cup muffin tin by lightly rubbing it with oil or use non-stick spray to coat. (My batter actually made 16 muffins, which makes me begin to wonder if my muffin tin is not a tiny bit smaller than normal size. It’s been happening a lot lately.)
Grate your sharp cheddar cheese and cut the smoked cheese into cubes.
Fry your bacon in a skillet and drain on some paper towels. Chop it into little pieces and set aside.
Slice the onions thinly and pop them in the bacon pan with a small drizzle of olive oil. (You can leave some of the bacon grease if dietary restrictions allow but I washed the pan out and used just olive oil.) Cook over a slow to medium fire, stirring frequently, until the onions are lovely and golden and caramelized. Do be careful not to burn them. Once they are done, take the pan off the heat and allow the onions to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together your flour, salt, smoked paprika, baking powder and baking soda. Add in the grated cheddar and give the whole thing a good stir.
Whisk the oil, egg and buttermilk in a smaller bowl and add in about two-thirds of the cooled onions. Stir well.
Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ones and stir a couple of times. Add in the smoked cheese cubes and fold to combine.
If all of your muffins will have bacon, fold the chopped bits in as well, reserving 12-16 small pieces to add to the tops before baking. If you are making some vegetarian (and halal) muffins, spoon some of the batter into the prepared muffin cups before adding the bacon.
Divide the rest of the batter between the muffin cups and top with some caramelized onions and then the reserved bacon bits (only on the muffins that have bacon inside, obviously – because then the muffin eaters can choose wisely.)
Bake in your preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Allow the muffins to cool for a few minutes then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Thanks to the flavored salt, smoked cheese and smoked paprika, these are cheesy and smoky and delicious, with or without the bacon!
|The deliciousness of the crunchy outside is only rivaled by the cheesiness of the wonderful inside.|
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