Friday, 17 July 2009

Cornbread: BBA Challenge

This week in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, we made Corn Bread. This particular corn bread is very moist, very sweet and very filling. Peter Reinhart created this version as an accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner or to help recreate Thanksgiving flavor memories throughout the year. That sounded like a pretty good idea to me. I love holiday meals and I love corn bread...but not necessarily in July.

What is corn bread?

Corn bread is the generic name for quick breads made with cornmeal. We take corn for granted these days, but bread made from cornmeal was a mainstay of colonial diets, in both the North and the South, for almost two centuries.

Southern cooks prefer to use white cornmeal, while Northern cooks tend to use yellow cornmeal and add sweetening to their breads. You can decide which type of cornmeal and method you prefer.

If you're baking along with us, turn to page 151 in the Bread Baker's Apprentice to locate the recipe and list of ingredients.

Making the Cornmeal Soaker
Soak the polenta (coarse cornmeal) in buttermilk the night before you plan to make the cornbread. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight. I made the soaker in the morning and let it sit all day. Then, I decided not to bake the cornbread that night so I refrigerated it until the next day. I took the soaker out of the refrigerator a couple of hours before I baked the bread to take the chill off.

Preparing the Bacon

The next day (or night) when you're ready to make the cornbread, prepare the bacon by baking it in the oven until it is crisp. Once the bacon has cooled, crumble it into coarse pieces. Drain off the bacon fat and save for greasing the corn bread pan (or just use vegetable oil to grease the pan). I decided to use the bacon fat this time, but I think next time, I'll forgo the bacon fat and just grease it with vegetable oil. I don't like the thought of all that fat!

Making the batter

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl. Stir in the sugars.

Lightly beat the eggs. Dissolve the honey in the melted butter. Then stir the warm honey-butter mixture into the eggs.  Add this mixture to the cornmeal soaker.

Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a large spoon or whisk until all ingredients are thoroughly blended and the batter is smooth.

Stir in the corn kernels until they are evenly distributed.

Baking the Corn Bread

Grease a 10-inch round cake pan (or a 9 by 13-inch baking pan or a 12-inch square pan) with the rendered bacon fat or vegetable oil. I love to make corn bread in my trusty 10-inch iron skillet so that is what I used. Place the pan in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes until the grease gets hot. Then remove the pan carefully (with heavy oven mitts or potholders).

Tilt the pan to grease all the corners and sides, then pour the batter and spread it evenly in the pan.
Sprinkle the crumbled bacon pieces evenly over the top and gently press them into the batter.

Bake the corn bread for about 30 minutes or until it is firm and springy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

The top of the bread should be a medium golden brown.

Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before slicing it into squares or wedges. Serve warm.

I love cornbread, but I decided it's too hot for such a rich version. I enjoyed the first bite because it was very flavorful and the texture was wonderful! However, I had a very hard time finishing even one piece because it was really heavy!

It was really hot in Atlanta this past week so that's probably the reason I didn't enjoy this bread very much. I decided to freeze it and save it for later. I think it would taste good with a bowl of soup or chili in the Fall. I'll let you know...

Thanks for joining us in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge.  Next time, we'll be making Cranberry-Walnut Celebration Bread. I made this bread for Thanksgiving last year and it is wonderful!

Happy Baking!

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