Sunday, September 27, 2009

SMS - Caramelized Onion, Sage and Cheese Muffins

I can't tell you how excited I am to host this week's SMS recipe. The very first time I browsed through The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, the savory muffins immediately caught my attention. I had never heard of such a thing before. How clever! I knew that that would be my recipe selection for SMS. The book offers so many varieties. Oh boy, which one would I pick. I looooooove (caramelized) onions, and I have a sage plant, so here we are.

Although the muffins sounded pretty good as-is, I wanted to add something to make them extra special. Muffins... muffins... crumb topping. YES! That's it. I'll add a crumb topping. What came to mind is this crumb topping I add to my tuna casserole for a nice crunch and some cheese flavor. So I grated some extra cheese on the small holes of a box grater, I added bread crumbs for a little crunch, some cayenne for a little kick, and some flour to coat the cheese and prevent it from sticking together (see recipe).

These muffins were super tasty. Moist, tender and very flavorful. The caramelized onions shined through perfectly, while the flavor of the sage hit your taste buds at the end. The cheese crumb topping was deliciously crunchy, adding another dimension to the muffin's texture. I will definitely make these again and play with different vegetables, herbs and cheeses. They were the perfect accompinament to my Creamy Chicken-Wild Rice-Barley-Veggie soup.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice/Barley soup alongside Savory Muffins. Yum!

To all my fellow SMS bakers, I would like to extend a big Thank You for baking along with me this week. Check out the blogroll to see how the other SMS ladies did this week.

Final thoughts/tips:
  • Hubby hasn't had a chance to try these so I will report back later on what he thought, assuming I can get him to try some. He was a bit weirded out by the thought of a non-sweet muffin. I'm hoping that since it's spicy he'll at least try, since he likes spicy food.
  • I cut the recipe in half and baked only 6 muffins, fearing I'd be eating 12 muffins by myself otherwise. Having tasted them, I wish I had made 12 after all. They're that good!!
  • Check out this week's P&Q section as there are lots of ideas posted on these muffins, including some info on how to caramelize onions.
  • My changes and notes to the recipe can be found below in the color maroon.
  • I have included step-by-step pictures below. Enjoy!

Savory muffins: Caramelized Onion, Sage and Cheddar Muffins
from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

Yields: 12 muffins

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 tsp teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (doubled this)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (used 80% butter, 20% extra-virgin olive oil)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature (used 2% milk)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (used shredded colby jack cheese + extra for crumb topping)
  • 1 cup chopped caramelized onions (+ 1 tsp finely chopped garlic)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
Hanaâ's special crumb topping:
  • ~1/3 cup loosely packed finely shredded cheese
  • ~2 tbsp bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp of all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • Toss together until cheese is coated and set aside.


Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with muffin papers (or butter and flour the cups or spray them with nonstick vegetable cooking spray). I used Pam spray with flour and no muffin liners.

Chop 2 medium onions and sautee them in a nonstick pan with half the salt, half the black pepper and half the cayenne pepper from the recipe. Half way through cooking, add the finely copped garlic. Cook until fully caramelized; about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and sugar.

In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, (extra-virgin olive oil) and eggs. Whisk in the heavy cream and milk until combined.

Add the cheese, sage, and caramelized onions to the flour mixture, and gently toss with your fingers to coat. Make a well in the center. Pour the butter mixture into the center of the well and, using a rubber spatula, gently pull the flour mixture into the center of the well until just combined. Muffin batter will be thick at this point.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups (using a large, spring-loaded ice cream scoop), filling each cup until full. If using, top each muffin with a little bit of the cheese crumb topping.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until lightly golden and a wooden skewer inserted into the enter comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Mine were fully baked after only 20 minutes so watch them closely.

Serve warm or at room temperature. The muffins are best eaten the day they are made, but they can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and kept for 2 days at room temperature. For longer storage, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 3 weeks. Defrost still wrapped at room temperature.


  1. Hanaa, your muffins and soup look so good! I'm going to use yellow onions instead of red, but I'm thinking now that red may just taste better. I'll follow your recipe and add the garlic to give it that extra umph. Thanks for this week's pick, the wonderful tips and pictures to go along. I'll post my pictures after dinner tonight.


  2. I love how you topped them! Thanks for a wonderful pick!!

    Katie xox

  3. Hanaa, these look like good savory muffins, I will try this recipe. I think that one savory muffin would be perfect to slip in a lunch bag for my 6 years old son to take to school. can't wait to taste it...
    I love the idea of accompanying the savory muffins with the chicken wild rice/barley soup (the barley incorporation sounds very clever :))
    Thanks for sharing ideas and recipes.


  4. Your pictures and muffins are beautiful! I used white onion in mine. Probably a milder flavor than yours. Bet the red onion was divine. Thanks for picking this recipe. My first savory muffin and I loved it!!

  5. Thanks for hosting this week! I love your topping and the soup sounds fantastic.

  6. Thanks for hosting this week Hanaa and thanks for picking a muffin that incorporated one of my favorite foods ever: caramelized onions - yum!! :) I love your idea for the topping - I'll have to try that next time. Yours look delicious!

  7. Thank you for hosting this week and for your choice of a great recipe! This was the first time I made savory muffins too. It was a nice change from fruit filled muffins.

    I love your step by step pictures and especially love the topping you came up with!

  8. wow i love the topping too! that's how I made mine...or tried to make mine. haha.

    thanks for hosting!

  9. Thanks for hosting this week. Your photos are great.

    I went ahead and made these even though I'm not an onion fan. I did love the spicyness though.

  10. Just when I thought they couldn't get any better - crumb topping?! Oh my. That I will be trying. Thanks for hosting this week. I loved these, great pick.

  11. Hanaa, how creative and what beautiful picture detail! I love everything in your blog for the muffins...along with the soup...YUM! Thank you for such a wonderful choice this week.

  12. Hey Hanaa, thanks for hosting this week, a very tasty choice! Nice step by step photographs :)

  13. Thanks for hosting this week, I thought this was a yummy recipe! I love your photos and I think your crumb topping sounds amazing, so creative! I was hoping to bake the tres leches cake this week since it was "your week," but my list of things to bake far exceeds my free time. Soon, though!

  14. loved them! thanks for hosting this week

  15. I'm back to critique after actually tasting the host's savory muffins. I think that the combination of the caramelized onion and the fresh sage, enhanced by the spices and the olive oil made the muffins exclusively mediterranean.(Hanaa,is your olive oil imported??, I sensed a Spanish/ Moroccan olive oil maybe??:)
    To please my kids tasting buds, I would skip doubling the cayenne pepper if not reducing it.
    Oh! did I mention that I loved the muffins!! yes I did like the flavoring combination along with the texture. looking inside the muffin, I especially liked the green color obtained from the fresh sage(you can see it better looking at the live muffin:))

  16. I love your topping! Funny thing is, I am making tuna cassarole tonight and I just may borrow your topping! :oD Thanks for this week's pick. It was a great choice. I am late, but my post is finally up!

  17. Hanna, thanks for a great recipe this week; I needed something savory for a change! Love your topping idea.

  18. Thanks, Hanaa, for the recipe. I am particularly fond of muffins. And, as Oscar Wilde demonstrates in his 1895 play, "The Importance of Being Earnest," I am not alone:

    Jack. How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.

    Algernon. Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.

    Jack. I say it’s perfectly heartless your eating muffins at all, under the circumstances.

    Algernon. When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing that consoles me. Indeed, when I am in really great trouble, as any one who knows me intimately will tell you, I refuse everything except food and drink. At the present moment I am eating muffins because I am unhappy. Besides, I am particularly fond of muffins. [Rising.]

    I tried them, and I'm happy. These are my new savorite muffins!

  19. i'm sad that i missed out on these. savory and muffin just didn't sound right to me. but i'm gathering that they were very reminiscent of biscuits! so i'll have to do a rewind and give these a try!!

  20. Hanaa, this recipe really does sound very good. I wonder too, like you, how my hubby would deal with an unsweet muffin (The Un-Muffin). . . the shock might just do him in! ;) But he's usually game to try just about any kind of new or unusual food item so I'm sure he'll emerge unharmed. ;)


  21. Thanks for picking this recipe Hanaa. I'm looking forward to trying them again and NOT overbaking them!

  22. I read your comment on Marie's blog about your kitchen redo... hope you'll be able to get back in and bake soon. Congrats, I'm sure you'll love your new space!

    Take care,

  23. Nice Blog Friend

    New Year Sms >>>


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