I'd like to talk about cornbread today. And I'm guessing, based on last night's showing between the Jets and the Patriots, that most of you would also like to talk about cornbread today. Or chili. Anything, really, besides that game. I try to be accommodating.
The cornbread in question is from the Moosewood Cookbook, and it's my mother's standby. She used to make it a lot when my sister and I were younger, I think because it was a way of getting something quick and healthy and homemade on the table, and she always baked it in an old scalloped cast iron pie plate. That was key, because it meant every slice—every wedge, that is, since it was a round pie plate—got a piece of the middle, right on the first bite. The middle was invariably the best part, the most moist, and if the cornbread hadn't been cut this way, I have a feeling there would have been a lot of hair pulling and pinching.
Anyway, I pulled the recipe out for the game last night. My mother annotated my copy of the Moosewood with all of her old notes—things like "Always simmer, never boil!" next to the Russian Cabbage Borscht recipe (the beets will lose their color, apparently)—but curiously, there's no note next to the cornbread. It's one of those recipes, she must have decided, that didn't need explanation or praising.
And really, she's right. It's simple—the secret, I think, is in the cup of buttermilk and the three tablespoons of honey and the quality of the cornmeal you use. Grinding down the dent corn from our grain CSA was still on my to-do list (isn't it gorgeous?!), so when I finally got around to it yesterday, our cornmeal was only minutes old for the bread.
And the bread came out beautifully. The color was a little different—it wasn't so yellow as I remember it, since our corn was also equal parts blue and red—but it had a kind of pale, wintery beauty. And most importantly, it tasted good. So good, in fact, that despite my square pan, it got us through the game—without any pinching, or hair pulling.
What I like about this recipe is that I'm always almost certain to have all the ingredients on hand. It also takes only about 10 minutes from start to oven, and bakes in about twenty minutes, making it an ideal just-before-dinner recipe. I've made it with both all-purpose flour and whole wheat, and I like both in their own way.
butter to grease the pan
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8" x 8" square pan or a 9" pie dish and set aside.
Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk (or whatever you choose), egg, honey, and butter. (I like to mix the honey into the butter first in order to help it dissolve. It also cools the butter down, which is nice for the egg.)
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top starts to get golden around the edges and the center is firm to the touch. It's better to undercook this recipe than to overcook it; the bread tends to dry out when overdone.