Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Cookbook Watch: The Cornbread Gospels
How would you feel about a book about a singular subject - cornbread? I was a bit hesitant when I first found out about the Cornbread Gospels, written by a woman with a most improbable name of Crescent Dragonwagon. But as soon as I heard it, I also thought "cornbread? Oh, but I love cornbread!" and thus, I agreed to review the book. And boy, am I ever glad I did. Wait, did I say glad? That doesn't describe my feelings accurately. At all. Because this book? This book is just.. oh, it's definitely the first single-subject cookbook I've been enthused by to this degree, and it's the first book in ages that's really prompted me to get into the kitchen N O W!! And in fact, it also sent me scrambling to buy a decent cast-iron skillet, because I didn't have one.
See, Crescent Dragonwagon is an incredible writer. I'm sure she's also a very fine cook, but her writing is so top notch that you can't help being excited. The book is brilliant - simply brilliant. Not only does she have a myriad of cornbread recipes - everything from Southern, Northern and Southwestern to muffins, cornsticks, yeasted breads and desserts - but also a lot of facts, hints and tips. She writes extensively about a few things, like for example the difference between Southern and Northern cornbread, why stone-milled corn meal is so much better than steel-milled, and how to properly season a cast iron pan. (This one was so enthusiastic I had to search out one in the middle of the post holiday sales.)
The one thing that bothers me is that I can't get decent corn meal here. I can get polenta, and that's it. White corn meal? Blue?? Stone-milled??? Forget it. Polenta is what I've got, and it's what I'll use. I guess I could try to find a place that ships to Sweden, but I'm betting the post office would charge an arm and maybe also a leg to get it here, so for now, polenta it is.
The first recipe to try was Crescent's very own from Dairy Hollow House where this was served for many years. Since it's also on her own website - the Cornbread Gospels - I don't feel bad about writing it out here, too. (Click here for the original and her instructions.)If you're only going to try one cornbread, try this one. You won't regret it. I have to admit that I was hesitant about the whole baking-in-a-skillet thing. Deep inside, I felt that it surely wouldn't work, but stick to the pan and never ever come out. I was wrong. And when I lifted out that heavy skillet (really, really heavy by the way) filled with glorious golden cornbread, it really delighted my inner domestic goddess. And when I ate it, I felt even better.
Oh. And you might want to put that book on your wishlist. Really. It's excellent.
Dairy Hollow House Cornbread
250 ml (1 cup) cornmeal
250 ml (1 cup) white flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp sugar
310 (1,25 cups) buttermilk (or light filmjolk, soured milk)
60 ml (1/4 cups) neutral oil (I like rapeseed)
2 tbsp butter
You need a cast iron skillet, about 25 cm in diameter.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Mix cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Whisk the buttermilk (or filmjolk) with baking soda, sugar, egg and oil in another bowl.
Heat the skillet on the stove, and melt the butter. When the butter sizzles, quickly add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and combine with as few strokes as possible. Pour into the hot skillet and place it in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden.
Recipe in Swedish:
Majsbröd från Dairy Hollow House