Sunday, 25 January 2015

American Cornbread

In my pre-university days, my kitchen experiences were limited to Betty Crocker cupcakes and Jiffy cornbread.  You can't even call that cooking.  You pour the dry contents from the box into a bowl, mix with some eggs, water and/or milk.  Pour that into a tin and magically something edible comes out in half an hour.  I remember in middle school I had a friend who always brought her mother's brownies to school -- they were divine, just lusciously rich and moist and decadent and everything I wanted a brownie to be.  Soon afterwards, maybe like a year or two, I discovered something horrible -- that they were Betty Crocker brownies.  I felt cheated, hrribly cheated.  "My mother's brownies".  No, no, that's got to be copyright infringement, they were Betty Crocker brownies.  Then I was like ok, I can make them too.  So I started buying all these boxed mixes and soon I discovered Jiffy and the delights of American cornbread. 
And then this weekend was the first time I decided to make the cornbread from scratch.  It's really just one tiny step above the boxed mix as it involves very little cooking.  I've adapted a Martha Stewart recipe, and by "adapt" I largely just mean I cut the sugar quantity in half.  I dread to imagine what a Paula Deen cornbread recipe would look like.  It's meant to be a savory side dish, no?  I did some research, and you know what, you should keep the sugar to a minimum, not just rationally because of the diabetic pandemic in the country but because traditionally sugar was never part of the recipe! According to Serious Eats, sugar only started appearing in cornbread recipes after the 20th century.  And you know what, if you do this, you can then toast them, slather with butter and drizzle with honey and it's altogether a better experience -- in my humble non-American opinion.
Also, they should be better when made in a cast iron pan, but... I hate cleaning cast iron pans so I made it in a bread tin.  Oh and lard, try lard instead of butter.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup milk
3 eggs
113g (1/2 cup) butter, melted and cooled
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cup polenta
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2tsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.  Butter and line a baking tin. 

In a large bowl, mix together the lemon juice and milk and leave to rest for a few minutes.

When it begins to curdle, whisk in the eggs, butter and zest.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, polenta, salt, sugar and baking powder and baking soda.  Stir in the wet ingredients, just until it's all combined.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 

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