I’m a treasure hunter. Thrift stores, estates sales, antiques shops. That’s my bliss.
A few months ago, I found a dusty old vintage New England cookbook and purchased it without haggle for two dollars. I probably would have paid a lot more because it has entertained me night after night, reading cover to cover, learning all the terms and nuances of a cuisine that is unfamiliar to me. It was here that I discovered the magic of historical gems. Or in other words, 19th century muffins. Nathaniel Waterman of Boston patented what is known as the gem pan in 1859.
My next mission was to seek out an authentic vintage gem pan. These are made of cast iron and are shallower than a regular muffin tin. I’ve experimented quite a lot of various gem flavors and these cornbread gems are pretty spectacular for picnics and barbecues. I love how flat and tabular they are. And of course, the history behind them.
You don’t have to use a gem pan for these. A regular muffin tin will work just fine. There are also cast iron biscuit pans online that are very similar. However you make them, they are absolutely delightful.
SERVINGS: 11 gems or 12 standard muffins
- Nonstick spray
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 3 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 large egg, beaten
- More softened unsalted butter, for spreading and serving
Preheat the oven to 425 F and grease a gem or muffin pan with nonstick spray.
Whisk the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the melted butter (no need to stir yet).
Whisk the milk, sour cream, and egg in a liquid measuring cup. Add to the bowl and mix well to combine.
Pour into the greased pan and bake 18 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Spread the tops with butter right out of the oven and serve with more on the side.
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