CORNY CORNBREAD: A Moist Cornbread, Full Of Corn Flavor!

corny cornbread textCornbread often doesn’t live up to expectations. While it may look buttery-moist with it’s vibrant yellow color, one bite sends you reaching for the water glass. The other side of the coin is the cornbread you get at some restaurants, so full of sugar and fat that’s it’s really just a slice of cake.

Here’s a recipe I got from America’s Test Kitchen that uses whole corn kernels pulsed in a food processor to release their juice, combined with the usual cornmeal to maximize corn flavor. Make it in a cast iron skillet to get that lovely golden brown crust.

NOTE:  A blender probably wouldn’t work for chopping the corn – the kernals might get stuck under the blades. You could try running the blender empty, then dropping in the corn. Or better yet, try using canned creamed corn. I’ve not actually done that, but would think it would work.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: A cast iron skillet is best for cornbread – it gives it that nice crust. If you don’t have one, make sure your skillet’s handle can take the high heat of the oven. (Then put a 10″ cast iron skillet on your birthday or holiday list!)

CORNY CORNBREAD

  • 1 cup (5.75 oz) cornmeal (I use medium grind, but you can use fine grind if you don’t like the grit – or a combination)
  • 1 cup (4.5 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 T butter, melted
  • 1 cup frozen corn (canned or fresh would work, too)
  • 1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco Sauce (or any hot sauce)
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 450º Fahrenheit.  Make sure you do this to get that nice crust!

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.corny cornbread3Melt the butter and set aside to cool a bit.melted butterInto the workbowl of your food processor (If you don’t own one, put it on your birthday or holiday list, which is becoming longer by the minute!)), add the corn, sour cream, eggs, and hot sauce. Pulse about 6 times to break up corn.corny cornbread4Pour the corn mixture into the cornmeal mixture and gently stir a few times. (The dry mixture will buffer the eggs so they don’t cook when the hot butter is added.) Then add in the butter and complete blending the ingredients just to the point where the flour in incorporated. Don’t over mix – overmixing a quick bread (which this is) will produce a tough bread.corny cornbread5 On the stovetop, heat the oil in a 10″ cast iron skillet over high heat until shimmering. Turn off heat and pour in batter (you’ll hear sizzling), spreading it out evenly and smoothing top. corny cornbread6Place in hot oven and bake at 450º F for 18-25 minutes. (Set your timer for 18 minutes and test with a toothpick – when done, it should come out clean. Reset timer and cook longer, if need be.) corny cornbread1When done, remove from oven and let cornbread set in skillet at least 20 minutes before slicing.

 

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CHEESE SCONES: An Afternoon Pick-Me-Up!

cheese scones textWhat could be better when that late afternoon hunger hits than a nice cup of tea and a freshly baked scone?

You might think scones are time consuming and difficult, but nothing could be further from the truth. If you have a food processor, then they’re even faster.

My favorite is a cheese scone. Traditionally, they’re circle-shaped, but you can also cut them into large wedges, if you prefer.

Note:  Due to my frugal nature (yes, I’m cheap), I use a 2½” diameter diced chilies can with the top and bottom removed, rather than buy a cutter.  scone6CHEESE SCONES – makes 10 circles or 6 large wedges

  • 1¾ cups (8 1/8 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • 4 T butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup medium cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup cream or milk (the richer the milk, the richer the scone)

Preheat oven to 450º Fahrenheit, rack in center position.

Place metal blade in food processor. Add in flour sugar, salt, and baking powder. Pulse a couple of times to mix.

Cut butter (make sure it’s cold) into 1/2″ cubes (you don’t have to be exact) and add to work bowl. scone1Pulse 10 times to form a coarse texture. scone2(If you don’t have a food processor, then crosscut the butter into small bits using 2 knives.)

Into a measuring cup (use a 2 cup size so you don’t splatter), crack eggs. Beat with a fork to break them up. Add in cream to the 3/4 cup mark (you’ll need about 1/3 cup). Beat well with a fork to blend. scone3Empty flour mixture into a mixing bowl. Pour in all but 1 T egg mixture (you’re going to use the reserved liquid as a wash) and stir gently to blend. (You don’t want to overmix or the scone will be tough.) scone5Lightly flour a flat surface and dump dough onto it. With floured hands, pat the dough into an 8″x5″ rectangle if cutting circles, or a 6″ diameter circle if cutting wedges. scone7If you’re making circles, dip circle-mold in flour then press straight down into dough. Don’t twist. Dip into flour each time before cutting a circle. If making wedges, slice 3 lines, intersecting in middle to form 6 equal wedges.

Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper. Place cut-outs, spacing them apart as much as possible. Brush on reserved egg wash. (If you forgot to save some of the egg mixture, then just use a little milk.) scone8Sprinkle on a few strands of cheese, if you like. scone9Place in preheated oven and bake until golden brown – about 12 minutes for circles, 13-15 minutes for wedges. Remove to a wire rack to cool a bit, then serve.

KING CAKE: Pistachio Sweet Bread Works For This Mardi Gras Favorite!

king-cake1-textMardi Gras is filled with a number of traditions. A yummy one is King Cake – a rolled cake decorated with purple, gold, and green. Often a plastic Baby Jesus or treat is hidden in the cake for some lucky person to be served.

This particular cake (actually, it’s technically a bread), Pistachio Sweet Bread, is a favorite of our family throughout the year. My husband loves it with a cup of coffee.

NOTE: Because I was decorating the cake for Mardi Gras, I used colored sugar. And because I’m a wee bit obsessive, I made my own homemade colored sugar with natural ingredients. Of course, this takes longer. I’ve put directions at the end of the post for those of you who choose to be chemical-free.

PISTACHIO SWEET BREAD

  • 2¼ tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
  • 1 cup milk (I use nonfat)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 T  +1/2 cup  + 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3½ – 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup salted pistachio nuts, chopped & toasted
  • egg wash: 1 T egg + 1 T water, beaten together

At least an hour before starting the bread, cut up 1/4 cup butter and leave out to soften. (You’ll be using another 1/4 cup butter later.)

In a small saucepan over low flame, heat the milk, 1 T sugar, and water to 100º – 104º Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and stir in yeast. Let proof for about 5 minutes.

Into the work bowl of your food processor, put 3½ cups flour, salt, 1/2 cup sugar, and the softened 1/4 cup butter. Turn on machine then slowly pour in the proofed milk mixture. Let run about 30 seconds before deciding if more flour is needed – the dough should begin to pull away from the sides but not form a clump. (I usually need to add about 2 T-ish.) Empty dough into a greased bowl, flip dough so both sides are greased, cover, and let rise 1½ hours.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. Pat into a rectangle, then let rest about 5 minutes before rolling dough to finished size. (Letting the dough briefly rest decreases its elasticity.) Roll dough to 18″ x 12″. Brush on the 1/4 cup melted butter all the way to edge. Sprinkle on 1/3 cup sugar and pistachio nuts, patting them gently into dough. Roll up dough from long side, leaving seam on bottom of log. (Try not to let the ends taper, so the ring is uniform in size.) Bring ends together to form a ring. Using a little water on your fingers, pinch dough together.

Carefully transfer dough to a greased cookie sheet. (Don’t use a dark sheet – it browns the loaf too much.) Cover and let rise 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375º F. When oven is hot and dough has risen, slice about halfway through dough in 1½” increments (I use kitchen shears). Brush with egg wash and bake 30 minutes, rotating cookie sheet after 15 minutes for even browning. Top should be lightly browned. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Let cool completely if you plan on frosting. If not, let cool about 20 minutes and serve warm.

WHITE FROSTING – makes 1 cup

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-4 T milk

Beat together the butter, salt, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Add in milk one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. If frosting becomes too loose, add more powdered sugar.

COLORED SUGAR

Orange

  • 1/2 cup mango cubes
  • about 2 inches of carrot sliced very thinly

Boil carrots in water, covered, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Purée mango and drained carrots in blender.

Purple

  • 1/2 cup blackberries or blueberries

Purée berries with a little water, until paste-like.

Green

  • 1/2 cup spinach (don’t worry – you won’t taste spinach in the frosting)

Boil spinach with a little water for 15 minutes. Drain and purée.

To Make The Colored Sugar:

Place about 1/4 cup sugar in 3 bowls. Add about 1 tsp (depending on preference) of colored pastes to each bowl. Mix with backside of spoon until color is well distributed. It will be very thick. To dry, spread each color on a plate and let air dry. After a couple of hours or so, mix to break up clumps. Keep doing this until it’s pretty dry. Then smash out crystals with a flat bottomed glass or measuring cup. Spread out on plate and let dry some more. Repeat until you get dried colored sugar. Drying time will be dependent on weather and how much coloring you use. But, it will eventually dry.

KALAMATA OLIVE BREAD – Pretty As A Picture!

olive-bread1-textCompany was coming and I needed a bread – fast! I flipped through my America’s Test Kitchen cookbook and found this Kalamata Olive Bread recipe made in a cast iron skillet. (To those under 35, cookbooks are how people used to get recipes!)

I’m always looking for ways to use my cast iron skillet, so I tried it. The results? It was fast, it was beautiful, and, best of all, it was delicious.

NOTE: A cast iron skillet is imperative to producing the crisp top, side, and bottom.

IDEA FOR NEXT TIME:  Include crumbled Feta cheese in the dough.

KALAMATA OLIVE BREAD

  • 5 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 12.5 oz (2½ cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4.5 oz (1½ cup), divided, Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or yogurt – I’ve used both)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 450º Fahrenheit.

In a 10″ cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium/high. Add in the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds, just until fragrant. You want to flavor the oil but not burn the garlic. Remove pan from heat and let cool down while preparing the rest of the recipe.

In medium bowl, mix together the flour, basil, baking powder, salt, and 3.5 oz (1 cup) Parmesan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg to break it up. Whisk in the milk and sour cream.

Remove garlic from skillet and mince (I use a garlic press). Add the garlic to the egg mixture. Stir in all but 1 T olive oil. Pour in the dry ingredients and blend until nearly all the flour is incorporated. Add in the Kalamata olives and gently finish blending. DON’T OVERMIX OR THE BREAD WILL BE TOUGH.

Heat remaining 1 T oil in skillet. Turn off heat but leave pan on burner. Pour in batter (it will be thick), smoothing top. Sprinkle on remaining 1 oz (1/2 cup) Parmesan.

Bake at 450º F for 20 minutes, until top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes in skillet. Remove to wire rack. I like to serve it as soon as it’s cool enough to eat.

CORNBREAD -What A Difference Cast Iron Makes!!!

corn-bread-textSeveral months ago I jumped onboard the cast iron craze and bought a 10″ skillet that I found at a thrift store. I absolutely love it, and my fear of keeping it seasoned was for nothing. It’s quite easy, really. After washing, all one has to do is rub a bit of vegetable oil over the surface, then place on the stove using a medium/high flame, letting it dry for 1 minute.

So now that I have this fabulous skillet, I was looking forward to making cornbread in it. As expected, the cast iron produced a perfect cornbread with a nice crisp bottom, side, and top, with a delicate center.

Of course, a good recipe is essential. Not all cornbread recipes are created equal – I’ve found the results often disappointing – dry and gritty. As a fan of America’s Test Kitchen, I eagerly attempted (and tweaked) their recipe. YUMMY!

CORNBREAD

  • 2 T white vinegar
  • 3/4 + 2 T milk (I use nonfat)
  • OR 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1  1/3 cups medium grind cornmeal
  • 3 ears corn (about 1¾ cups nibblets)
  • 6 T butter, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 yolk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1¼ tsp salt

Make buttermilk (unless you’re using store bought buttermilk) by combining vinegar and milk. Stir in the cornmeal to soften it. Let stand while preparing the cornbread.

Remove corn from cobs by running a knife downwards and away from you along the cob. NOTE: You can use frozen or canned, if you’d rather.

Purée corn in a food processor for about 1 minute, stopping now and then to scrape down the sides. Pour into a saucepan and, stirring often, cook over medium heat until reduced to about 3/4 cup – about 8-10 minutes. It will become quite thick. Remove from heat and stir in 5 T butter.

Preheat oven to 400º Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, beat together the eggs and yolk. Stir the eggs and buttermilk/cornmeal into the thickened corn.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in the corn mixture, blending gently until dry ingredients are just incorporated into the wet. (Over mixing can lead to a tough bread.)

Heat remaining 1 T butter in a 10″ cast iron skillet. When skillet is hot, turn off stove and pour in cornmeal dough, smoothing top. Bake in preheated oven at 400º F for 25 minutes, until top begins to brown. Remove from oven and let set for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Let cool 20 minutes on rack before slicing. (If you slice it too soon, it will fall apart.)

 

 

PISTACHIO-FETA BISCUITS – Saving Money Never Tasted So Good!

pistachio-feta-biscuit-textAs a woman who hates waste (yeah – I’m cheap!), I was trying to come up with something to do with leftover feta cheese. True, it can always be a crumbled topping for salad, but I wanted something new. As I was looking for a bread recipe to post, I decided to merge the two. Biscuits! There were also a handful of pistachios lurking about, so I threw them in for crunch.

Once again, my frugality prevailed – PISTACHIO-FETA BISCUITS were a success! For those of you who have never made biscuits, it’s easy as pie (I felt obliged to use a food simile).

Note: I toyed with the idea of adding in leftover dried cranberries. Next time, I think I will.

PISTACHIO-FETA BISCUITS

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 T baking powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 T butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup pistachio nuts
  • 2/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk or cream (sometimes I use nonfat, sometime I use cream)

Preheat oven to 500º Fahrenheit. (You will lower the temperature when you bake the biscuits.)

Into the work bowl of your food processor, put the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Pulse a couple of times to mix. Cut butter into about 8 pieces and add to flour. Pulse 20 times to incorporate butter. Mixture should be crumbly.

Note:  If you don’t have a food processor, then do this by hand: using 2 knives, cross-cut the butter into the flour mixture.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with a fork just to break them up. Pour in milk, as you continue to beat eggs. Set aside 2 tablespoons of this mixture to glaze the biscuits.

Pour the flour mixture into the eggs, blending with a spoon until most of the flour is incorporated. Empty the bowl onto a lightly floured large breadboard or counter. Knead the dough about 20 times to unite all the flour into the batter.

With your hands, shape the dough into a 1″ thick rectangle. Cut the dough into 12 squares.

Note: I prefer to cut squares – it’s faster and there’s no waste. You can cut circles, if you want, then gather the uncut dough and reform it so you can cut more circles. BUT – overworking dough can cause it to become tougher – not a good thing, so after re-gathering one time, just bake the odd bits as is – they’ll still taste wonderful.

Place cut pieces on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or greased. Brush with the egg/milk you set aside (you probably won’t use it all).

Put sheet in preheated oven. IMMEDIATELY LOWER OVEN TEMPERATURE TO 425º. (I can’t stress this enough!) Bake 10-12 minutes, until golden brown on top. Serve immediately for best quality.

Note:  Leftovers can be reheated in oven at 375º Fahrenheit for about 5 minutes – until hot to the touch (they’ll brown a wee bit more).

CHEESE BREAD – A Slice Of Goodness!

cheese-bread-textIt’s hard to beat bread and cheese. Add onion and bacon (fake, of course!) and – wow!

Cheese Bread is a quick bread, meaning there’s no yeast, kneading, or rising to deal with. However, there is a little bit of cooking (the onions and fake bacon), 45 minutes of baking, and 40 minutes of setting before slicing. So, while “quick” is a technically correct term, it does take some time.

However, don’t let that stop you – Cheese Bread is very easy to make and definitely worth the wait.

CHEESE BREAD – 1 loaf

  • 2 slices fake bacon (I use Morningstar)
  • 1/2 cup onions, chopped
  • 3 T oil (I use vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1¼ cup milk (I use nonfat)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 oz Gruyère cheese, cubed in 1/2″ pieces

Note: You can make your own sour cream by whisking together 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 T fresh lemon juice until thickened, then adding 1/8 tsp salt.

Slice the bacon in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/4″ pieces. Heat oil in skillet and fry the bacon until browned. Keep your eye on it – it burns quickly! With slotted spoon, remove bacon to plate, leaving oil.

Fry onions in same skillet as above, until golden.

Grease a loaf pan (I prefer a dark metal one to ensure a crispy crust) and sprinkle half of the Parmesan evenly on bottom.

In large mixing bowl, combine flour, cayenne, salt, pepper, and baking powder. Stir in the bacon, onions (with the oil), and Gruyere.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg. Whisk in the milk and sour cream. Add this to flour mixture and gently combine.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, spreading so it’s of uniform thickness. Sprinkle on remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake in preheated 350º fahrenheit oven for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove from oven and let set in pan for 5 minutes. Run a dull knife along the sides and invert onto a wire rack. Then right the loaf and let cool 40 minutes before slicing – otherwise, it falls apart. The bread looks and tastes so good that waiting is very difficult – but try to restrain yourself.