The Bread Baker’s Apprentice will help get you through a bleak dry winter. This cookbook has true baking secrets. Like, did you know it’s better to let bread rise cold, rather than warm, overnight? This will bring out more flavor. If BBA is not in your kitchen yet, put this book on your Christmas Wish List. Written by Peter Reinhart , this masterpiece was named cookbook of the year in 2002 by both the James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
I will admit I am weary from trying to do too much to get ready for the feast, with too many interruptions from little ones who have no idea what I’m trying to get done. The kids are home today, so I will be cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner — and snacks, and cleaning up after each meal, on top of the food I’m trying to get done. I’m wondering just how can I make it to the grocery store within the next 24 hours for the onions I forgot on my list. I’m thinking it was a silly idea for me to host this year — my house is too crazy, and it takes 3 times longer to get anything done with little ones under feet. This is one of those times when I do feel more alone, as I miss all that my Mom usually does. Not that I don’t have any help others are busy cooking parts and pieces of this meal too as we speak. It just takes a little getting used to when you remember that you could always count on her to make gravy with no lumps, and this year you can’t count on that.
Would anyone really mind if I just ordered pizza Thursday? It’s all about the family time anyways, isn’t it? We could have pizza and cornbread. Well, there is that matter of that bird thawing in my fridge. He will need to be cooked.
Thankfully, this bread is already made, sitting in my freezer to be warmed up for Thursday. I make it without the bacon — using butter and light olive oil in its place, and it still tastes yummy. (In all due respect Peter, I’m sorry. I know that the crunchy bacon combined with the soft sweet corn reminds you of your favorite Thanksgiving memory.) If you need one last dish, there’s still time to make this cornbread. It starts with an overnight soak. You’ll have to excuse me now, while I rid myself of some cortisol.
- 1 cup (6 ounces) coarse cornmeal (also packaged as “polenta”)
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 8 ounces (approx. 10 slices) bacon
- 1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 1/2 cups
- (16 ounces) fresh or frozen corn kernels
- 2 tablespoons bacon fat or vegetable oil
- The night before baking the corn bread, soak the cornmeal in the buttermilk. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.
- The next day, to prepare the bacon, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Lay out the bacon on 2 sheet pans. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp. Save the fat. When the bacon has cooled, crumble it into coarse pieces.
- Lower the oven setting to 350°F (175°C). Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl. Stir in the granulated sugar and brown sugar.
- In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs.
- Dissolve the honey in the melted butter and then stir the warm honey-butter mixture into the eggs. Add this to the soaked cornmeal mixture.
- Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a large spoon or whisk until all the ingredients are evenly distributed and the batter is blended and smooth. It should be the consistency of thick pancake batter.
- Stir in the corn kernels until they are evenly distributed.
- Place 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat into a 10-inch round cake pan (you can also use a 9 by 13-inch baking pan or a 12-inch square pan). Place the pan in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the fat gets very hot. With good pot holders or oven mitts, remove the pan, tilt it to grease all the corners and sides.
- Pour in the batter, spreading it from the center of the pan to the edges.
- Sprinkle the crumbled bacon pieces evenly over the top, gently pressing them into the batter.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the corn bread is firm and springy (the baking time will depend on the size of the pan) and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top will be a medium golden brown. The internal temperature at the center of the corn bread should register at least 185°F (85°C).
- Allow the bread to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before slicing it into squares or wedges. Serve warm.