Cornbread, warm from the oven, is such a treat. It has a
lovely golden brown cracked surface with a
crust that is nice and crispy, yet inside the texture is soft, dense, and
crumbly. Some like to serve it with their meal, instead of a yeast
bread. It also makes a nice accompaniment to
soups, stews, and salads. You can use it for your turkey stuffing or I like it
in the morning for breakfast,
served with some sweet butter and strawberry jam.
In America, how you like your Cornbread can depend on whether you
live in the Northern or Southern States. For example, Northerners normally
prefer to use yellow cornmeal and also like to add a little sugar
to the batter. Southerners, on the other hand, like white
cornmeal, and no sugar is allowed.
When I set out to make Cornbread, since I'm Canadian
with no predetermined ideas of what it should taste like, I just
experimented with different ingredients and amounts until I came up with a Cornbread
with a taste and texture I enjoyed. First, I like to bake the cornbread in
a fairly hot oven and while a baking pan does produce a nice
cornbread, I prefer to use a cast iron skillet (called Skillet
Cornbread) as it gives the cornbread a nice crisp and crunchy outer crust. Then,
for the batter, I like to use 1 cup (120 grams) white cornmeal
(can use yellow cornmeal) and 1 cup (130 grams) all purpose
flour. (You can change the ratios of
cornmeal to flour. More cornmeal will give you a denser, more
gritty and crumbly bread. More flour will give you
a more cake-like bread.) Then, I have to admit, I like to add a little
sugar, so feel free to leave it out. For the liquid I used equal amounts of buttermilk and milk.
(You can change the ratios of these two liquids. Buttermilk gives a more
bread-like texture to the cornbread, milk makes it more cake-like.) Then
an egg and some melted butter (can use bacon fat or vegetable oil) are added for texture, flavor, and
coloring. If you like you can add some fresh rosemary, ground cumin,
chopped chilies or jalapeno peppers to the batter, or some grated cheese or
fresh corn kernels. Before the batter is poured into the cast iron skillet, some
butter (or bacon fat, shortening, lard, for oil) is
put in the skillet and the pan is placed in the oven for about five
minutes. This allows the
butter to melt and heats the pan so it nice and hot. Then, when you pour
in the batter, the extra butter is pushed up the sides of the pan which
makes the outside crust of the cornbread so wonderfully crisp and crunchy.
Note: Cornmeal is made from white or yellow
corn kernels that have been ground and dried. If some of the germ and hull
are included in the cornmeal, it is called 'stone ground' cornmeal. Stone
Ground Cornmeal tends to have more 'corn' flavor and a more gritty
texture. Cornmeal, when used in baked goods, adds a slight crunch and
gives it a coarser texture. You can use polenta or maize meal
instead of the cornmeal.
Recipe: Preheat oven to
degrees F (200 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Then
put 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of the butter in an 8-9 inch (20-23 cm) cast iron
skillet (or baking pan) and place in the oven for 5 minutes (to heat
the pan and melt the butter) while you make the batter.
In a small
saucepan, or in the microwave, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter.
Set aside. In a bowl, with a wire whisk, lightly beat the egg and then stir in
the buttermilk and milk.
In a large
bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar (if using), baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Then
make a well in the
center of the flour mixture and pour in the egg/milk mixture, along with the
melted butter. Gently stir, just to combine. The batter should be thick, but still pourable. Add more milk or buttermilk if necessary.
Remove the skillet
from the oven and tilt the pan so the butter coats the bottom and sides of
pan. Pour the batter into the skillet and bake in the oven for about 20 - 25
minutes, or until the top is golden and cracked, and a toothpick inserted in the
center comes out clean. Remove from
oven, place on a wire rack, and let cool for about 10 minutes before
serving. This bread is wonderful served warm, whether with your meal, as a
snack, or with butter and jam.
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