|Slightly sweet and this batch, slightly blue with blue cornmeal|
~more recently updated recipes~
2008: First off, lest anyone fear a diversion from this blog's recipe focus (vegetables, vegetables, vegetables!), who knew - who knew?! - that cornmeal is a vegetable, just field corn dried and ground. I'm embarrassed to admit: cornmeal's humble origin just never registered.
Luckily, despite the lapse, it turns out that a real cornbread lover can nose out another cornbread lover. Crescent Dragonwagon, cornbread lover extraordinaire (who else would write an entire cookbook expressing one's love for cornbread?) looked me up when the Country Cornbread recipe posted to help people use up their leftover ham from Easter. Just a couple of weeks earlier, I'd shared my recipe for cornbread (you know, the single go-to recipe we call our own), the savory ever-moist Skillet Cornbread, in Kitchen Parade, my food column. I didn't know I loved cornbread so much. But Crescent did -- she even offered to send a complimentary copy of her cookbook The Cornbread Gospels.
And she was so so right! There's just so much to love about cornbread. How cornbread can 'save' a skimpy supper. How mixing cornbread takes maybe 10 or 15 minutes. How cornbread emerges from the oven just 30 minutes later, steamy, substantial, ready for hungry folk to dig in. How cornbread is made, nearly always, from simple on-hand pantry ingredients. (I swear, The Cornbread Gospels uses the same ten ingredients again and again, turning out an astonishing variety of cornbread and racking up some 200+ recipes.) How cornbread's many variations are so different -- starting with southern savory cornbreads and their northern sweeter cousins. How cornbreads' names are familiar but old-fashioned, johnnycakes, hoecakes, hush puppies, spoonbread. Especially, I love how cornbread is so very American, the staple grain fundamental to Native Americans, later to this country's early settlers, and later still, for families in the southern states, especially, of the U.S.
CORN: THE VEGETABLE THAT'S EASY TO HATE Nowadays, corn has become déclassé. There's the farm subsidy issue and the carbs in corn issue and the very real high-fructose corn syrup issue. (For another point of view on HFCS, visit HSCSFacts from the Corn Refiners Association.) But what about this? Isn't corn one of the all-time most useful -- frugal -- plants and thus worthy of use not abuse?
"Every part of the corn plant -- the second most plentiful cereal grown on earth for human consumption -- serves us in some way. The husks of corn are traditionally used in making tamales, the kernels for food, the stalks for cattle and hog food (silage), and the silks for medicinal tea. You can fry in it (corn oil), bake with it (cornmeal, of course), snack on it (popcorn, tortilla chips), sweeten with it (corn syrup), thicken with it (cornstarch), and get drunk on it (bourbon)."
~ The Cornbread Gospels
ABOUT THE CORNBREAD GOSPELS What to make first: this was my biggest 'problem' with The Cornbread Gospels. What a 'problem'! These are easy recipes, ones to pull together in a flash. In between recipes are amusing tidbits (think quick quotes from novels) and useful information (the nine major differences, say, between southern and northern cornbreads) and sooo much more. It's beautifully organized: southern cornbreads, northern cornbreads, southwestern cornbreads, 'global' cornbreads, babycakes (you know, muffins, cornsticks, biscuits), cornbread made with yeast, spoonbreads, pancakes, crisped cornbreads, dessert cornbreads -- and my favorite chapter, "why you should always make a double batch", ways to use up leftover cornbread.
WHY CHOOSE STONE-GROUND CORNMEAL Could you use the standard "yellow cornmeal"? It's easy to find, it's inexpensive, it keeps forever. Yes -- and I often do, when I can't find or don't want to make a special trip, just for cornmeal. But yellow cornmeal has been degerminated, this means that its healthful and flavorful germ (and hull) removed. Stone-ground cornmeal has real flavor, its texture is also delightfully gritty -- though this may take some getting used to by some.
WHERE TO BUY STONE-GROUND CORNMEAL Yes, it's hard to find.
The Cornbread Gospels websites lists online sources for stone-ground cornmeal, including War Eagle Mill and Purcell Mountain Farms.
I find Bob's Red Mill stone-ground yellow cornmeal at Whole Foods (which means your own grocer might stock or be willing to stock it too).
Many thanks to a Wisconsin reader who recommends the stone-ground white cornmeal from Anson Mills in South Carolina. For retail sales, Anson mills and ships one day a week -- this stuff is fresh! Anson sells grits and polenta too. Thank you so much, Edith!
I have also now found found stone-ground blue cornmeal, a Bob's Red Mill product (for St. Louisans, at Sappington Farmers Market).
Stone-ground cornmeal should be refrigerated and even frozen so that it doesn't go rancid. (How to tell if it's gone bad? Do the sniff test. If it is virtually odorless, it's fresh. If it has an 'off' smell, the oil has gone bad.)
I buy stone-ground cornmeal in small packages (compounding the hard-to-find and out-of-the-way problem) and then freeze it.
BACK to THE RECIPE for SWEET CORNBREAD This is an easy cornbread to love, sweet but not too sweet, rich but not too rich. It was perfect for an evening when supper's soup was a big disappointment, part bread, part dessert. With butter and honey? To moan over. The leftovers would make a great sweet cornbread pudding, too. If I wanted one recipe for my sweet cornbread, this would be it. But thanks to The Cornbread Gospels, I've got 199 more recipes to try before picking just one.
2011: Aiii, this is a good cornbread recipe! It's just sweet enough, not too sweet. I used a mix of stone-ground yellow cornmeal and stone-ground blue cornmeal, hence the blue cast to the bread in the photo. I won't use blue cornmeal anymore, what's pretty in the bag turns a dull gray in baked goods. But overlooking the color? Delicious.
Time to table: 35 - 40 minutes
1 cup flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring (100% white whole wheat flour works great, so does 100% whole wheat flour)
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal (see KITCHEN NOTES)
1 tablespoon baking powder, fluffed to aerate before measuring
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) room temperature butter
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly butter a baking dish. (The inspiring recipe calls for a 9-inch square pan. In 2008, I used a 9-1/2" round cakepan -- both have similar areas. In 2011, I used a cast-iron skillet, see NOTES.)
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
In a four-cup Pyrex measuring cup, warm the honey in the microwave for 30 seconds or so. (To make it easier to pour, I warmed the honey right in its container, then poured it into the Pyrex cup.) Stir in the butter til it melts. Whisk in the eggs until all three are well combined. Whisk in the remaining ingredients. Transfer to baking dish. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately. Keeps well at least through the second day.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
2008: These would make great muffins too, I think.
2008: The Pyrex measuring cup means there will be no measuring cups, etc. to dirty.
2011: If you like a chewy bottom crust for cornbread, use a cast iron skillet and this quick trick. First, put the ungreased skillet into the oven while it preheats. When the oven is hot and the batter ready, carefully remove the skillet, lightly grease and then gently pour the batter into the skillet -- then bake.
~ Pumpkin Cornbread ~
~ Pumpkin & Green Chile Cornbread Topping ~
~ more cornmeal recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Skillet Cornbread ~
~ Savory Cornbread Muffins ~
~ more cornmeal recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column