Thursday, July 6, 2017

Elizabeth Ellicott Lea's Corn Muffins, 1869

Yeasted Corn Muffins

About Elizabeth Ellicott Lea
ELizabeth Ellicott Lea was born in Ellicott City, Maryland in 1793. Lea was from a prominent Quaker family who was instrumental in establishing Ellicott City. In 1812, Lea married Thomas Lea who was from a prominent Quaker family north of Wilmington, Delaware where the Leas owned flour mills. Elizabeth and her husband spent the first ten years of their marriage in Delaware and then moved to Sandy Spring, Maryland in 1823 and started a farm known as Walnut Farm and operated a successful apple orchard there. Elizabeth E. Lea first published Domestic Cookery, Useful Receipts, and Hints to Young Housekeepers in 1845.

The Recipe: 

Domestic Cookery by E. Lea, 1869 edition

This recipe was very challenging to get to work properly. The ingredients are vague to say the least so it took me several attempts with different amounts of cornmeal, flour, yeast, etc. I may not have produced the results Lea would have wanted but they are tasty.

About Cornmeal 
It is very important to use stone-ground cornmeal for this recipe. Stone-ground cornmeal is sweeter and more flavorful than commercially roller-milled processed corn. Roller mills remove the corn kernals' fiber and nutrient-rich bran and germ. When cornmeal is ground the old-fashioned way using stones, the whole corn kernel is ground, including the bran and germ. Even if the fibrous bran and germ is sifted out, its flavors commingle with the endosperm (the fine part of the corn we like to eat) and give the corn and complex and rich taste. Likewise, the roller-milling process also yields cornmeal with far fewer nutrients. As a result, roller-milled cornmeals need to be "enriched" with vitamins. So, the processing method strips of the corn of its natural nutrients and they need to be added back in. Therefore, skip the enriched and degermed cornmeal and choose stone-ground instead!

Corn Muffins: Modern Recipe Adaptation
Yield: About 18 muffins

  • 2 Cups Whole or Reduced 2% Fat Milk
  • 1.5 Cups Stone-Ground Cornmeal (Yellow or White)
  • 1 Teaspoon Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 Cup Whole Grain Pastry Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Large Egg


  1. Heat the milk to 105º - 115º F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the yeast into the cornmeal. 
  3. Add the heated milk to the cornmeal/yeast mixture and whisk together very well. 
  4. Add the flour and salt and whisk. Then, add the egg.
  5. Cover the bowl and set in a warm spot to rise for 1 hour.
  6. Grease two muffin pans with oil. Place them in the oven and heat to 375º F. 
  7. Spoon 1/4 cup of the batter into each muffin cup, filling them about half-way.
  8. Bake for 12 minutes, until the tops are dry and set.