Sunday, January 10, 2010
How to Make Corn Bread.
Does this happen to you? If you are making cupcakes, a salad, cookies, a pot of stew, or, say, cornbread, and you are making it for no particular reason other than to have something to eat, it turns out perfectly. But if you think, "Hm. I should blog about making _____.", then this happens:
Aaack! It never sticks, but it did today!
In the spirit of keepin' it real, I'm going to carry on with this as if nothing happened and that cornbread flew out of the pan on it own and jumped onto the plate. After all, 99 percent of it did!
So let's talk cornbread. There something especially lovely about a wedge of skillet baked cornbread, all crispy-crunchy where it touched the skillet, all soft and fluffity (fluffity?) everywhere else. It's not hard to do, and as long as you aren't trying to do it for some special occasion (you know, like a blog post), it will be perfect and delicious.
Here's the stuff I put in my cornbread. I'm using half a recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, minus the sugar. If you like yours sweet, then by all means, use the sugar. We're having ham and bean soup with this one, so I am going for savory.
Why half a recipe? Well, for one, I think cornbread is best when it's fresh. It has lots of crunch, which it loses if it's wrapped overnight. Also, this is a small skillet, but since there are just three of us, it makes a perfect size cornbread for our needs.
And while I'm here, Thank You, Mom, for this skillet! It really is the perfect cornbread skillet - high sides and all. I really love it.
First thing, preheat that oven to 425 or so - a nice, hot temp. The oven needs to be ready before the corn bread, so give it a 5-10 minute head start. Put some fat in your cast iron skillet. This has to be an fat that can take high temperature. Shortening should work OK - I'm using a little coconut oil. Not too little though - you want enough that you can swirl it in the pan once it's melted. Put the fat in the pan, then put the pan on the stove top and turn it on low.
Next, measure your dry ingredients into your big bowl, and your wet ingredients into a separate bowl. We'll wait and put them together once the oven and the pan are ready. Check that pan to make sure it isn't getting too hot.
When things are getting close to ready, pick up your skillet (you will likely want a hot pad or oven mitt for this) and gently swirl the oil so that it coats about halfway up the sides of the skillet.
If the oven is hot and the pan is too, then it's time to get going. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and stir until they are combined. Give the skillet another little swirl and turn up the heat to medium...maybe even medium high. Pour in the batter. It should start to sizzle as soon as it makes contact.
See that? That's where crispy happens.
Pop it into the oven, close the door and set the timer for about half the time your recipe calls for. If you're making a small batch, it will cook a little faster, but the heated, sizzling pan is what really speeds the cooking time. My recipe said 20-25 minutes, but our corn bread was browned and ready in less than 15. By the way, be sure you have a hot pad or oven mitt when you remove your cornbread from the oven. It's so easy to just reach for that very hot handle, but it really hurts if you do!
Ooooh - pretty! Place a plate over the cornbread, as if you were putting a lid on it. Place a hand on the bottom of the plate and gently flip the entire thing over, pan and all. Unless you are planning to photograph it, it will fall out perfectly. If you want to be double sure, wait a few minutes, allowing it to cool and shrink a bit. I think I was a little too eager, but yum, it's cornbread!
When you slice it into wedges you'll hear that crunch, and moments later, you'll taste it yourself. Serve with ham and beans, chili, soup, or just some butter. Enjoy!