#14, Awesome Bacon Cornbread
So my ‘Baker’s Apprentice’ book actually has a Cornbread recipe in it! I mean it seems a logical thing at first, until you look through all the other recipes and realize that really the book focuses SOLELY on yeasted, kneaded and gluten-developed kinds of breads. There’s not a single beer, soda, or other ‘alternative’ bread recipe in the whole thing. But for whatever reasons he included cornbread (apparently it has something to do with fond memories or some other worthless mumbo jumbo). Even so, reading through his dedication and love of this chemically leavened quick bread, and how much effort spent perfecting the recipe to the heights of his cravings, definitely makes one quite hungry and obsessed with what must be a damn good cornbread recipe. I mean, it contains bacon… gotta be good right?
As such, I’ve been waiting for a good time to make it. And we’ve finally entered Sweet Corn season in Minnesota! With how much of this vegetable is stuffed into the tender but crunchy-moist bread, the better quality of corn used should produce noticeable results. So I am officially going for it now that I get the chance! Not to mention I still have some ‘Chili Compound Butter’ in the fridge that just needs good corn or cornbread to spread on.
I do plan on making one little change to the recipe; where it requires just putting ‘fresh’ (aka raw) corn kernels in the bread, I’m going to sauté part in the batter’s butter, cuz it just brings out the flaver, and grill the other part because… I mean have you not tried grilled sweet corn in season? You know.
1 cup/6oz Coarse/Polenta Cornmeal
2 cups/;16oz Buttermilk
2 ½ cups/16oz Corn Kernels from whole cobs, about 4-5
2 Tb/1 oz Unsalted Butter
2 Tb/1.5oz Honey
1¾ cup/8oz All Purpose Flour
1½ Tb/0.75oz Baking Powder
¼ tsp/0.05oz Baking Soda
1 tsp/0.25oz Salt
¼ cup/2oz Sugar
¼ cup/2oz Brown Sugar
3 whole/5oz Eggs
2 Tb/1oz Rendered Bacon Fat
- Mix Cornmeal and Buttermilk in bowl to make a Soaker, cover tight with plastic wrap and let sit out overnight at room temp
- Roast Bacon strips at 375F for about 15-20 minutes, or until crisp and ready. Remove, drain on paper towels, and chop or break up into pieces
- Drain off rendered bacon fat from pan, reserve
- Take half of the Corn cobs, grilling the kernels directly over the grates, turning occasionally, until golden brown around all sides
- Remove and cut kernels off the cob. Repeat with the uncooked corn, separating to the side with the Butter.
- Take the now-cleaned cobs and scrape sides thoroughly with the edge of the knife, pulling off all the remaining corn flesh, cream, and ‘trimmings;’ set these off to the side (and save the cob husks! Can simmer in soups and stocks for added flavor)
- Toss butter, uncooked corn, and ‘scrapings’ in hot pan, sautéing until corn is tender and color deepens, around 3-5 minutes
- Drizzle Honey into corn at the end, stirring to dizzolve
- Lower oven to 350F
- Sift Flour, Baking Powder, and Soda into bowl w/ the Salt and Sugars
- Mix the Eggs, cornmeal soak, and reserved sautéed + grilled corn, making sure to get in all the liquid and that the eggs are broken and distributed
- Add to the flour mixture, stirring thoroughly until everything is mixed into a smooth, evenly distributed thick batter
- Dollop reserved Bacon Fat in your pan, 10” round cake or 12” square-ish, and transfer to oven 5-7 minutes
- Once melted and sizzling, pour in batter and sprinkle bacon over the top, making sure it’s somewhat pressed in
- Close oven, bake around 30 minutes, until center is just set and passes toothpick test
- Remove and let cool on counter at least 5-10 minutes before cutting pieces
- Enjoy as-is, with ribs, dolloped with chili-compound-butter, or however else desired
What Have I Learned This Time?
It takes at least 4 ears of corn to get 16oz of kernels, not 2!
Making this recipe, a true culmination of an author’s spent years of crafting a favorite food to perfection, sort of got me thinking on the topic of ‘improvement.’ I really like this cornbread, it IS awesome; moist, bit of crunchy on the sides, but most importantly it has that deep sweet, cornbready flavors that can’t be beat. I know that sometime in the future I’m going to make cornbread, and it’s going to be this recipe… which is a rare thing to happen nowadays. Most of the recipes one happens to find and utilize, at least for me, no matter how good they are, will still find those little ‘points’ in the back of your head after finishing. “I should have done this,” or “I think next time I’d like it to have more/less of this,” or “it NEEDS some of ‘this.’” Unless one happens to make things over and over, really getting to KNOW a dish and a recipe, these thoughts are unavoidable; which is what always drives my searching and comparing different formulae before I attempt any ‘classic’ dish (that I’m not trying to make out a specific cookbook of course).
So it’s interesting when I simply can’t think of any desire to look for a different cornbread recipe in the future; at least to me. What seems to be a very high risk of just making something inferior is blasting in my mind. Truly this is a testament to the baker behind this. That said, I do have ideas for ADDING things; not changing the chemical balances and ratios or anything, but how delicious would this be with some grilled poblanos and bits of cheddar mixed into the batter before baking? And I would LOVE to see what flavor I get by substituting the regular sugar out for even MORE honey; not in an attempt to make it better, but just using this recipe as a blueprint for a fun curiosity.
I feel like I just said a whole lot of nothing… but I have cornbread, so who cares?
Does the Dough Like Me Yet?
Yes, but it’s a rather cheap victory