previous butter + milk monthly muffins
Cheese is in the air this week. Or is it love?
They’re basically the same thing.
When I think of February, I think of Valentine’s Day: chocolate, roses, champagne, fake aphrodisiacs, raspberries, tomatoes, cheese. I’m not the only one who thinks of tomatoes and cheese, am I?
If aphrodisiacs were a real thing (and we’ve proven time and again that they are not), cheese would be at the top of the aphrodisiacs list. Ignore the fact that it makes some people (me) fart like an angry motorboat.
Ever since I started this Monthly Muffin series, I’ve been thinking I should do something savory. Jalapeño english muffins are still on the docket for some time in the future, but I’ve actually had the idea of cheddar tomato muffins in mind for at least a year. I attempted them once maybe a year ago and then never got back around to them. I had so little faith in the results of that first attempt, I decided I wasn’t sure if I was ready to date again.
I mean, if I was ready to attempt to make cheddar tomato muffins again.
And now here we are, back in the game. And the game is bright, cheesy, herb-y, and delicious.
The muffins are made with just the rind of the tomato and without all the excess water from inside, shredded cheddar cheese, fresh oregano, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top, plus a splash of ground white pepper for a little kick.
I considered using sundried tomatoes, but to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of them compared to fresh tomatoes. On the other hand, fresh tomatoes are insanely watery and I knew even before attempting these that it would be frustrating trying to get the recipe right. I remembered a technique I learned in a knife skills class at work for prepping tomatoes so that you avoid both the seeds and the water.
- To start, you slice off about half a centimeter from the stem end and the opposite end of the tomato, so that you have both a flat surface on one side, and a window on the other through which you can see where the rind ends and the pulp begins. You can eat or toss the bit of the rind with the stem end, and keep the other piece for the muffins.
- Angle your knife so it’s approximately parallel with the side of the tomato (the curve) and place the edge of your blade right where you see the rind meet the pulp.
- Use a gentle sawing motion to cut the rind away from the fruit, changing the angle of your blade as you cut around the side of the tomato (from top to bottom), to conform to the curve of the tomato. Your goal is to get as much of the curved rind as you can, and as little of the watery pulp as possible. It’s similar to fileting and boning meat: you want your knife to follow the shape of the bones.
- You’ll end up cutting the rind off in strips approximately 1-2 inches wide, and because the tomato is a sphere and your knife is a straight line, you’ll have to cut off multiple strips of rind. I usually end up with 5-6 strips, as if I’m trying to make a pentagon or hexagon with the top and bottom of the tomato. (Insert Phantom Tollbooth reference here.)
- Once all the rind is cut away, you should have a disc from the bottom end of the tomato, and about 5-6 strips of rind from the sides, plus a squishy, jewel-like ball of tomato meat that has no skin.
- Now, dice the tomato rind. You can eat the skinless tomato meat balls or do whatever else you want with them. I’m not sure how they’d hold up for tomato sauce without the rind (I’ve never successfully made tomato sauce.)
Voilà! C’est une tomate sans les organes!
Making the muffins without the tomato meat means you won’t have to worry about too much moisture in the batter, the muffins getting damp after baking, or adding excess flour to compensate. Whenever you bake with fruit, you’ll always end up with excess water.
cheddar tomato muffins
makes 1 dozen
8.5 oz (2 c) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground white pepper (can substitute black pepper if you want)
8 oz (1 c) milk
2 oz (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
6-7 oz diced tomato rinds (~3 regular tomatoes, 5~6 Roma tomatoes)*
2 Tbsp fresh oregano, minced
~1/4 c finely grated Parmesan cheese, for finishing
*The cutting and dicing technique is nearly impossible with cherry tomatoes, because they’re too small to hold while cutting. A larger tomato is easier, and a firmer tomato is easier to peel and dice than a soft one, as well.
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, white pepper, and baking powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, and eggs, until uniform.
Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture and quickly combine.
Add the cheese, tomatoes, and oregano, and fold the batter together just until no dry patches remain.
Scoop the batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup about 2/3 of the way, and sprinkle a large pinch of shredded Parmesan cheese on top of each muffin.
Bake 25 – 30 minutes until springy to the touch and the tops are turning a bit golden.
Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Muffins keep for up to 48 hours wrapped individually in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.