November 9, 2011

Simple cornbread

Now that Halloween is behind us, we have Thanksgiving to look forward to.  Are you dreaming up your Thanksgiving menu and loading the pantry?  I think Thanksgiving is such a lovely American holiday - it's all about food and family.  How much better can it get!  For my family, Thanksgiving is a collaborative effort and a multi-cultural affair.  We'll have the usual like turkey and gravy but also loads of Asian dishes my mother will cook up (she does most of the work not only for Thanksgiving but all the other family meals that take place very often).  It can be anything from oyster pancakes to noodles and seafood on our Thanksgiving table.  Today, I thought I'd post this super easy, basic cornbread recipe.  It might make an appearance on our table this year - if there's room.  I actually cooked this up recently for our six-year old after he'd tasted some at school and really enjoyed it.
In our elementary school, we recently held a "Colonial Day" where the children, teachers, staff, parents dressed up in Colonial garb and "went back in time" to experience what life was like then.  It was a fun and educational day and part of the event included tasting of food typical of Colonial times.  That meant turkey, ham, cornbread or corn muffins, apple cider, and pumpkin pie.  My son said he liked the cornbread best of all.  That sent me in the kitchen to make a batch for him at home.
This is a very easy, basic cornbread recipe to mix up quickly.  I like using yellow stone ground cornmeal for a bit more texture.  Buttermilk makes these tender and the flavor is fairly mild so it's a nice accompaniment to the robust Thanksgiving meal.  If you're going to someone's house for Thanksgiving this year and need to bring something, this is an easy side dish to whip up.

This super easy cornbread recipe comes from the October 2011 issue of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine.  It's a great little magazine packed with simple recipes, with photos of each dish. 

You just need 2 bowls to mix everything up in.  I start by buttering my 9" square baking pan.  Then mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  That includes cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk that together and then combine the wet ingredients in another, medium size, bowl.  That includes buttermilk, melted butter, and eggs. 

Whisk the wet ingredients to combine.  Then it pour over the combined dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Avoid over-mixing. 
Pour the batter into the buttered pan, smoothing out the top.  For corn muffins, scoop batter into muffin tins instead.  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven. 
In the 9-inch square pan, the cornbread should be done in about 16-18 minutes.  If you are using an 8-inch square pan, it takes approximately 20-25 minutes.  It's good practice to check early; it is done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
I like the browned, slightly crunchy corners of the cornbread and the tender yet somewhat grainy texture you get from using stone ground cornmeal.  My son liked these but he thought the one he tasted at school was better (kids are so brutally honest).  My husband is a fan of cornbread and really liked these...he insisted on having it for breakfast a couple of mornings.
If you like, enjoy a piece of warm cornbread with a dab of butter on top.  You can even make your own butter, the way we did during our school's "Colonial Day."  This could be a fun activity for the kids this Thanksgiving.  Just put cold heavy whipping cream into a jar or other container with a tight lid.  Let the kids shake it until the cream solidifies into butter.  Just pour out the buttermilk (the liquid you see) that has separated and what you have left is butter! 


Basic Cornbread
From the October 2011 issue of Everyday Food

1 stick unsalted butter, melted, plus more at room temperature for pan
1 1/2 cups yellow or white cornmeal (I used yellow stone ground cornmeal)
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Butter an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, and eggs. 

Add the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined.  Pour batter into the pan and smooth the top.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes for an 8-inch pan and 16-18 minutes for a 9-inch pan.  The cornbread is done when a toothpick inserted comes out dry.  Let cool on wire rack for about 15 minutes before slicing and serving. 

Cornbread can be stored at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for 3 days.

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