- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Homemade bread seems like a tall order. It’s time consuming. It’s mysterious. The techniques required can be intimidating.

Even a few years ago, at the peak of the bread machine fad, the idea of making fresh bread at home seemed quaint and noteworthy, if not downright eccentric.

The dilemma is that we don’t really want to make fresh bread, but we want to have it. We pine for the aroma, the warmth, the fulfillment. The distance between longing and the work required can seem like miles, so how do you bridge it?

One solution is to buy pre-made bread dough from our favorite neighborhood bakery and bake it at home.

Here’s another idea: Make muffins instead.

Muffins can be made with simple, nonmysterious ingredients and require only a few quick strokes on your part — less than 30 minutes, start to finish.

Even though they are simple, they will still infuse your home (and the people in it) with the aroma, the warmth, the fulfillment of homemade bread without all the work.

Buttermilk corn muffins with sweet red peppers

We normally think of muffins as a sweet affair, eaten for special breakfasts. However, you can also take them into the savory realm and serve them for dinner alongside a bowl of soup or some good chili. These delicious savory muffins are easy to make and, with little flecks of red bell pepper distributed throughout, they are very pretty. Eat them plain or split and toast them, then melt some cheddar cheese over each half. Be sure to use regular, fine-milled cornmeal for this recipe, and not the more coarsely milled polenta.

Nonstick spray for the pan

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper (about 1 medium-size pepper)

1 cup unbleached white flour

teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar

11/4 cups cornmeal

1 large egg

1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Lightly spray 12 2-inch muffin cups with nonstick spray. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet. Add red pepper and saute until just tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Stir in brown sugar and cornmeal, and mix until well combined. (You may have to use your hands to break up and distribute the brown sugar. It doesn’t have to be perfect.) Beat together egg and buttermilk. Stir this into flour mixture along with the sauteed pepper. (Be sure to include all the butter it was cooked in.)

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling them until just even with top surface of pan. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a knife inserted into center comes out clean and tops are beginning to brown. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes before removing. Makes 12 muffins.


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