Two summers ago, we took a gastronomic road trip down to the Southern States. From Montreal to New Orleans, we stopped many places along the way with one main goal: EAT ALL THE FOOD. I could go on for hours listing all  delicious memories – from fried oysters, to breakfast Po’boys, to “three-vegetable-plate” made up of mac&cheese, potato salad, and beans… But it is one particular appetizer at the Four Way Diner in Memphis that now holds a special place in my arteries heart. I’ve always been a fan of bite-sized anything, so it’s no wonder that I’d easily fall in love with sweet and smoky hush puppies. Served alongside the most delicious sweet and savoury whipped butter… I was instantly hooked. 

Upon our return, I decided to re-create a lighter, slightly healthier version of these delicious poppable treats. I knew I had saved a similar recipe a while back, and sure enough, when I went through my piles of ripped-out magazine pages, I found exactly what I was looking for. (Thanks for always being on-point, Châtelaine!

Since these are oven-baked, they’re more of a cornbread-hushpuppy hybrid – to replace the smoky flavour obtained by frying, I opted for a little sprinkle of smoked paprika, as well as a little smoked cheddar (or gouda!) for an extra kick. Jalapeños just felt natural, so of course, I added a few as the original recipe suggested. 

Whipped Sweet & Savoury Butter 
(scroll down to find the smoky baked hush puppies recipe!)

This fluffy, spreadable butter is slightly sweetened with natural maple syrup, and gets a little savoury kick from fresh chives. If you can’t find chives, finely chopped green onions will work equally well. Whipped butter can be prepared in advance and left in a sealed container at room temperature for up to five days. (You can also refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 weeks, making sure that it is taken out at least two hours before serving to let it soften up again.) 

250g salted or semi-salted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup table cream (10% or 15%)
3 tbsp maple syrup
4 tbsp chopped fresh chives

Prepare the whipped butter: In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed for about 7 minutes, until light and fluffy. (Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl at least twice during this process!)
Add maple syrup, milk and chives. Beat again on lowest speed for about two minutes, or until combined. Slowly increase speed and beat once more for 2 minutes on high. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 5 days. 

Oven Baked Hush Puppies (Baked Mini Cornbread)

1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 diced jalapeno (fresh or pickled)
1/4 cup grated smoked cheddar
1/4 cup grated smoked gouda
1/2 cup canned sweet corn kernels (drained)
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 425F. Butter two 12-count mini-muffin pans. (Alternately, you can use non-stick paper liners.)
In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and jalapeños
Stir in cheeses and corn kernels. 
Beat egg, melted butter and milk in a small bowl. 
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour in your egg & milk mixture. 
Stir until just until combined. 
Use a miniature ice cream scoop to fill your well-oiled tins.
Bake until golden, 10 to 12 min. Serve warm, with whipped sweet chive butter.