There’s probably not a place you can hail from in the United States that doesn’t associate cornbread with the mystery and magnetism of Southern-style cooking. It’s a staple dish at the table, goes with everything, and is often a key element in gold-standard comfort food. This recipe for corn muffins with fresh elderberries and thyme aims to please your sense of comfort in a way that also nourishes your body with the added nutritional and medicinal benefits of some herbal superstars.
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Sweet Corn Muffins, But Make Them Healthy…er
Corn gets a bad rap, and not to be a downer, but like most good things, we’ve definitely ruined it in a lot of ways, so much so that much of the corn we grow isn’t even intended to ever make it to our plates.
It’s such a productive and versatile crop that, instead, it’s often meant for animal feed, ethanol, and even bio-based plastics.
But at its best, before we stripped it (or re-educated it?) of its intelligence and genetic diversity, corn was a vegetable full of nutrition and medicine. In fact, it sustained numerous traditional cultures around the world.
Today, for the most sustainable and nutritious option, opt for organically-grown corn.
Cornbread, believe it or not, can be a healthy addition to a meal. Not only can it be a good source of several vitamins and minerals, it’s the perfect versatile vehicle to add in fresh herbs and superfood fruits to amp up the nutritional content.
Unfortunately however, a lot of cornbreads, especially those made from boxed mixes, contain a lot of unnecessary additives and high amounts of sodium and sugar.
Homemade is always best, but there’s a reason boxed mixes exist. Who isn’t down for a huge timesaver every once in a while?!
You can make this recipe using a box mix to which you just stir in some fresh thyme and elderberries. Just make sure to check the ingredients on the mix.
The Health Benefits of Elderberry
Elderberry, the deep dark bluish-purplish berry of the elder tree, is a superstar of immune-boosting plant medicines. Studies have shown that the elderberry’s bioflavonoids (the biochemicals that give the berries their beautiful color) can actually prevent viruses from entering our cells. It can be a great preventative medicine when heading into cold and flu season.
- Mild Laxative
Plus, the berries are full of nutrition too. Elderberries are particularly high in vitamins A and C and are also potent in quercetin and other bioflavonoids that may actually help to reduce allergy symptoms.
And while elderberries aren’t particularly sweet, their bright and earthy tartness is the perfect complement to sweet corn muffins with notes of evergreen thyme swirled in.
The Health Benefits of Thyme
It’s so easy to forget that so many of our common culinary herbs and spices have long histories of use as potent medicinals. We reach for them in our spice cabinets for their incredible aromas and flavors and don’t even think about all the beneficial effects they have on our health.
Thyme is no different. Not only is thyme just plain delicious, but this tiny little green leaf is also an incredible immune-booster that helps to ease digestion and aid nutrient absorption. Plus, thyme is one of the best herbal remedies for respiratory health.
As a plant medicine, thyme is considered to be:
Thyme is high in vitamins A and C, as well as minerals manganese, copper, and iron. And there you go, you just leveled up your corn muffins in a big botanical way!
The Secret Ingredient
This recipe for corn muffins uses the magic of aquafaba, that starchy liquid leftover from your cans of chickpeas and other beans that by some culinary wizardry can be whipped up just like egg whites.
Aquafaba, discovered around 2014, can help leaven, bind, emulsify, and coagulate just like eggs, and has since effectively changed the lives of every egg-free cook on the planet. Starchy bean water, who knew?!
These dairy-free, egg-free, and gluten-free elderberry corn muffins use aquafaba to hold it all together and give them a light and fluffy texture.
How To Make Sweet Corn Muffins with Elderberry & Thyme
This recipe for corn muffins was adapted from the Minimalist Baker’s recipe for Vegan Gluten-Free Cornbread. Elderberries and fresh thyme were added for seasonal flair and extra deliciousness, but they also come with the added bonus of amping up the nutritional and medicinal benefits of these sweet corn muffins.
Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll need and how to make these corn muffins. If you’re ready to jump in, you can find the full, detailed recipe at the end of this post.
Equipment You’ll Need:
- Measuring Cups & Spoons
- Mixing Bowls
- Hand Mixer (for whipping the aquafaba)
- Rubber Spatula
- 12-Cup Standard Muffin Tin
- Regular-sized Paper Baking Cups (optional)
- Non-Dairy Milk
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Aquafaba (the liquid from one can of chickpeas)
- Granulated Cane Sugar
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or another oil of your choice)
- Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
- Corn Meal, finely ground (not coarse and not corn flour)
- Fresh Thyme Leaves
- Baking Powder
- Baking Soda
- Sea Salt, finely ground
- Elderberries, fresh or frozen, not dried (sub another blueberries if desired)
- Preheat the oven and prepare your pan. If using, line your muffin tin with paper baking cups. If not using paper baking cups, lightly oil the insides of the cups.
- Make the vegan buttermilk. Combine the non-diary milk with the apple cider vinegar. Stir and set aside while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
- Whip the aquafaba. Use a hand mixer to whip the aquafaba until light and fluffy. Then add in the sugar in increments, whipping on high until soft peaks form. Set aside.
- Make the batter. In a mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredinets together, then stir in the fresh thyme and elderberries. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients. To the well, pour in the vegan butter milk you’ve set aside and the oil. Combine until all the ingredients are just incorporated.
- Fold in the whipped aquafaba. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the whipped aquafaba just until incorporated.
- Fill the muffin tin and bake! Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups.
What’s the difference between cornbread and corn muffins?
You know, there’s not a big difference between cornbread and corn muffins. Cornbread is typically baked in a castiron pan or in sheet pans and then cut into squares. Typically it’s less sweet than corn muffins.
Whereas corn muffins are obviously baked in muffin tins and tend to be a little more dessert-like. But this isn’t always the case, just a general observation.
Where can I get fresh or frozen elderberries?
If you’re lucky enough to live where elderberry grows, you can probably easily find fresh and frozen elderberries. Elderberry is a relatively easy plant to learn to identify correctly and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can always harvest them yourself.
Otherwise, you can often find fresh and frozen elderberries at your local farmer’s markets and food co-ops. Look for the foragers and mushroom farmers at the markets, as they tend to often have elderberries during the season (late summer) or probably know where you can find them.
Some online vendors like Northwest Wild Foods can ship frozen elderberries. However, local is best and in a pinch just substitute with wild blueberries or another berry of your choice. Organically-grown berries are all wildly nutritious and a potent source of antioxidants.
Try These Other Botanical Baked Goods…
For more plant magic & herbal wellness in your life, be sure to follow along on ➡️ Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, & snag my herbal 📚 eBooks Nourishing Herbal Gifts & Holiday Pies from the (Un)Bakery. 🌿 And please don’t forget to tag me in your snaps 📸 @_botanyculture_. I love to see all the plant magic you make happen!
Elderberry & Thyme Corn Muffins (vegan & gluten-free)Course: Snacks, DessertCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy
These elderberry corn muffins, adapted from a Minimalist Baker recipe, are incredibly sweet and satisfying. They’re moist, just the right blend of sweet and savory, and packed to the brim with all the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory goodness of elderberry and fresh thyme. Enjoy warm with a pat of butter or cold as breakfast, a nutritious afternoon bite, or a just-for-the-pleasure-of-it kind of snack.
3/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used organic soy milk.)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup liquid from a can of chickpeas, whipped to soft peaks
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup oil (I used extra virgin olive oil.)
1 cup finely ground cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, rough chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup fresh (or frozen) elderberries**
- Preheat oven to 350F and prepare a 12-muffin pan with paper baking cups. Set aside while you prepare the batter.
- In a small bowl or cup, add the apple cider vinegar to the milk of your choice, stir to combine, and set aside.
- To a medium mixing bowl, add the 1/3 cup liquid from a can of chickpeas. Use a hand mixer to whip until white and fluffy.
- Once white and fluffy, add in the sugar in increments while continuing to mix on high speed. Continue until all sugar is incorporated and whip until it forms soft peaks. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift together all dry ingredients. Combine thoroughly and then stir in thyme and toss in elderberries to thoroughly coat in flour.
- Create a well in the center of your dry ingredients and berries. To this well, add in the milk mixture and oil. Stir together until just combined.
- Fold the whipped chickpea water into your batter and fold or gently whisk until a thick but pourable batter is formed.
- Spoon or scoop the batter into your prepared muffin pan, filling each baking cup ~3/4 full.
- Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes. Muffins are done when you can insert a toothpick or knife and it comes out clean or with only a few dry crumbs on it.
- Let rest for 15 minutes before enjoying. Store leftovers unrefrigerated for 2-3 days, in the fridge for 5-7 days, or frozen for up to 1 month.
- *GF FLOUR: I haven’t tested this recipe with any other brand of gluten-free flour and can’t speak for the results, but feel free to experiment.
- **ELDERBERRIES: You can always substitute fresh or frozen blueberries or chopped blackberries for the elderberries if you are unable to source elderberries or if they’re out of season.
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DISCLAIMER: The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications.