Cornbread. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.
Okay, I can’t help but say that every time I mention cornbread, but hey, it’s not untrue.
The concept here is #41: Gentle Folding Stops Tough Quick Breads. This concept is basically a simple one and easy to understand if you compare how kneaded breads – think baguettes or sourdough – are much chewier than quick breads, like banana or pumpkin bread. They earn the name “quick” owing to the fact that they are risen with the chemical leaveners – baking powder and baking soda – instead of yeast, which takes much longer to rise. And they earn their delicate texture owing to the fact that the gluten in the flour undergoes minimal development. To keep gluten development at bay, a quick folding of the ingredients, with some streaks of flour remaining, is all that’s needed. Never use an electric mixer and don’t stir vigorously and you’ll turn out a nice, cakey bread.
This is the first recipe I’ve made from this book that I didn’t entirely love. The idea of a sweeter cornbread studded with blueberries sounds great, but in the end I found it a little bland. I wasn’t able to taste the maple syrup at all and while the recipe decreases the amount of salt for this variation, I actually thought it could have used the full original amount. The blueberries sank to the bottom of the cornbread instead of appearing throughout. I know the way to prevent this is to toss them in flour before adding them to the batter, so I’m surprised the recipe didn’t instruct me to do this. Overall it was an okay batch of cornbread, but nothing that amazed me.
Still, if it’s something you want to try, here’s what I did.
Either spray an 8×8-inch baking dish with baking spray, or get your cast iron pan all lubed up for use. Whisk together 1½ cups flour, 1 cup cornmeal (here they suggest Quaker, since it’s a finer grind and yields a more tender bread), 2 teaspoons baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, and ½ teaspoon salt (the original amount is ¾ teaspoon, which I would use if I made this again). In a food processor or blender, combine ¼ cup light brown sugar, ¾ cup frozen corn that’s been thawed (or fresh corn, if in season), ¾ cup buttermilk, and ¼ cup maple syrup until combined, then add 2 large eggs and combine. There will still be lumps from the corn, which is okay.
Make a well in the dry ingredients, then pour in the wet and fold with a rubber spatula until just barely combined. Don’t overmix! Add 8 tablespoons of melted and cooled unsalted butter and 1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries and fold again (as I noted earlier, you may want to toss the blueberries in a little bit of flour, lest they all fall to the bottom). Pour the finished batter in your prepared pan and smooth the surface. For a finishing touch, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar over the batter before putting in the oven. Bake at 400° for 25-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool it on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn it out of the pan and let it cool about 10 more minutes before cutting into it.
While I found my first taste of this cornbread a little lacking, I did find it was better when I toasted up for eating later in the week. The crust was nice and crackly and the blueberries burst with their juice. Perhaps, with that extra salt and re-toasted, a nice drizzle of maple syrup over the top would take this to level of tastiness that I was missing. It’s still a good recipe, I just need to add some of my own tweaks.