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Recipe: Sweet Corn Cakes

Your corncakes won't look like muffins but the tin gives them a nice shape.

When I was in college at Boston University (and unconcerned with good nutrition), there were a million great restaurants to explore – most of which I couldn’t afford.  I discovered that one of my friends loved the restaurant chain Chi-Chi’s as much as I did so we’d make the 30+ minute excursion to Framingham, MA on rare occasion for a tasty treat.  Now, I realize that this is not quality Mexican food nor is it (necessarily) even the best Mexican chain – however the look and smell of it elicits a nostalgic feeling for me.  I can’t help but reminisce about a Chi-Chi’s location that once lived in the Stamford Town Center (aka The Mall) of the city I grew up in.  But mostly, the Chi’s Chi’s trip was about the cornbread.  It was soft, sweet and buttery – and more like corn pudding than bread.  One bite melted in your mouth and biting into the corn kernels (which probably came from a can) was like a burst of sweetness.  It was incredible.  And incredibly bad for my health, I’m sure.

Chi-Chi’s closed in 2004 due to a combination of bankruptcy and a hepatitis A outbreak but the memory still remains close to my heart.  I’ve tried to fine tune recipes that replicate the taste and feel of their corn cakes (served with an ice cream scooper), but without all the fat.  And now, world, I will divulge my recipe.  It’s not quite right, but I don’t use a stick of butter per serving either.  I did the whole thing in a large bowl with an immersion blender (in an effort to reduce the number of dirty dishes) and it worked just fine.  Let me know what you think!

Sweet Corn Cakes

Serves 12

1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup masa harina (corn flour)
1/3 cup water
4 cups corn (fresh is best, if not – use frozen corn but make sure it’s thawed)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Use a cooking or baking oil-based spray to lightly spray a muffin tin.  In a medium pot, bring water to a boil. Also, find a pan that the muffin tin fits into.

In the meantime, in a large bowl, cream the butter using a hand blender.  Add the masa and water and mix until uniform.  Add the corn and puree until most of the kernels have been broken up (I like to leave a few whole).  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Spoon 1-2 tablespoons into each muffin well, dispersing the batter evenly.  Cover the tin with aluminum foil.  Place the muffin tin inside the larger pan and carefully pour the boiling water into the larger pan until about a third of the muffin cups are submerged.  Place in the oven for about 50 minutes-1 hour.

181 calories ∣ 74 calories from fat ∣ 8 g fat ∣ 5 g saturated fat ∣ 27 g carbs ∣ 2 g fiber ∣ 3 g protein ∣ Good source of Thiamin

*This recipe is not that healthy — that’s why I’ve called them ‘cakes’.  However, it’s a better option than a large, 350 calorie muffin and they’re very tasty.  Consider them a treat, if you will.

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