corn breadMerri Ann can’t eat gluten and yet I like to bake for her. Cornbread is one answer. We eat a lot of cornbread at our house. It’s skillet cornbread, relying on eggs to give it structure and not flour. We’ve made it so often that it has evolved from a series of recipes to a technique. Using a ratio of ingredients, we use this technique to make both sweet and savory cornbread—whatever we are in the mood for—from Jalapeño Cheese Cornbread to Banana Nut Cornbread. We would like to tell you how we do it. Here’s How to Make Your Own Cornbread Recipe Skillet cornbread is very forgiving. Consider the following as guidelines and a pallette for creating your own masterpieces. Build a basic cornbread batter and add whatever you are in the mood for. Here are some suggestions for additions: • Bacon snipped into pieces • Chopped ham • Diced onions (consider steaming them in the microwave until partially cooked) • Diced bell peppers • Jalapeño peppers • Sun-dried tomatoes • Herbs • Pimento • Chilies • Fresh or canned corn (one 15-ounce can well drained of one cup fresh or frozen kernels) • Grated cheese (add up to 1 1/2 cups) • Dried fruit (cranberries are a favorite) • Applesauce • Bananas (up to two ripe bananas) • Chopped walnuts (3/4 cup seems about right) • Chopped apple (one apple finely chopped and unpeeled) What are some of our favorites? We like savory cornbreads with plenty of cheese and onions or bell peppers. Pepper jack cheese is good when you are in the mood for something spicy. When making savory cornbread, we usually add corn kernels. Banana nut cornbread is very good. (The banana taste is even more pronounced the second day.) Try it with a teaspoon of allspice or cinnamon. We made a cranapple nut the other day that was very good. (Made with one apple, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.) Be sure and refrigerate any leftovers. Cut the cornbread into wedges and wrap them in plastic wrap. Here’s how to make your cornbread: You will need a ten-inch, ovenproof skillet. A heavy metal skillet is best. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the skillet in the oven. 1. Cornmeal. Place 1 1/2 cups cornmeal in a medium bowl. If you are going to use corn kernels, reduce the cornmeal to one cup. If you would like a softer grain to your cornbread, add the liquids and eggs to the cornmeal and refrigerate it for an hour so that the cornmeal grains absorb the liquid. 2. Eggs. Add three large eggs to the cornmeal. It’s the eggs that are going to give your cornmeal structure and hold it together. 3. Fat. Cornbread tends to be dry and the addition of an oil or fat is essential for a moister cornbread. Without adequate fat, your cornbread will be dry. The eggs provide some of the fat. Bananas or applesauce reduce some of the need for fat. Use melted butter or vegetable oil. If you are using cheese, bananas, or applesauce, 1/4 cup will do. (We suspect that you can leave it out all together with a cheesy cornbread.) Other wise, use 1/2 cup. Add the fat when you add the eggs. 4. Spices and salt. Generally use 1/2 teaspoon salt. If you are using cheese, you may reduce it to 1/4 teaspoon. Add whatever spices you choose. One teaspoon of allspice or cinnamon is about right. You can add the salt and spices anytime. 5. Sweetener. For a savory cornbread, one teaspoon of sugar or honey will do. For a sweeter cornbread, we use up to two tablespoons. Add it anytime. 6. Leavening. You can get by without any leavening but we prefer to add 1 teaspoon of baking powder. (If you do not use baking powder, increase the salt by 1/4 teaspoon since baking powder contains sodium.) Since baking powder looses potency after sitting in the batter, add the leavening just before the “additions” and soon before baking. 7. “Additions”. Stir in the additions of choice. 8. Liquid. You will likely need some liquid to make the batter soft and of the right consistency. It should be barely pourable. The amount of the liquid will be determined by the moisture content of the additions but you will need anywhere from a couple tablespoons to one cup. Stir in the liquids after the additions. We usually use milk but you can use what you want from water to a juice. Mix all ingredients well. Notice that this is a one-bowl technique. Remove the hot pan from the oven being careful not to burn yourself. Add one tablespoon of butter and tip the pan from side to side until the butter is melted and the bottom and sides of the pan are covered. Add the batter to the pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is golden. Serve hot and refrigerate any leftovers. We often serve our cornbread, even savory cornbread, with hot maple syrup. Our gourmet fruit syrups open up some very nice combinations. Jams or just a pat of butter work well too.
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