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Make cornbread fast (not in a Jiffy)
Bluegrass singer Gillian Welch is not known for her upbeat lyrics. In her album “The Harrow and the Harvest” she opines, “That’s the way the cornbread crumbles, that’s the way the whole thing ends.”
Whenever I hear that refrain, instead of being imbued with a sense of fatalism about life, my stomach starts rumbling and I focus on the cornbread. Why is the cornbread crumbling? Maybe she made it southern style, without sugar or wheat flour.
With York County being close to the Mason Dixon Line, I have made cornbread in both the northern and southern styles, but I’ve come to prefer the moist, fluffy, slightly sweet version made the northern way.
Making cornbread is an easy process that uses only a few ingredients. However, the quantity and quality of each makes a difference.
Let’s begin with the cornmeal. You’ll want to look for stone ground cornmeal, which means that the corn has been ground with the germ intact. This type of cornmeal has more vitamins and fiber. It has a shorter shelf life, though, so if you aren’t going to use it up quickly, it’s best stored in the freezer. Indian Head stone ground cornmeal is available in all the major supermarkets.
Then there is the question of color — yellow or white? Taste-wise, there isn’t much difference. Yellow cornmeal tends to be a tad sweeter and a little stronger tasting. Southern cooks prefer white cornmeal almost exclusively for cornbread. Here in the north, the question might be moot, as white cornmeal is not sold in regular supermarkets.
To ensure that the cornbread is the non-crumble type, use buttermilk instead of regular milk. The acid in the buttermilk breaks down the gluten molecules in the flour, making the finished product tender and moist. I like the whole milk buttermilk from Perrydell Farm and Dairy to give added richness. Using butter instead of oil also provides extra flavor.
The recipe below can be easily doubled or tripled. It also can be used to make 12 corn muffins.
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.
In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter and eggs. Add to the flour mixture and stir just until combined, being careful not to overmix.
Transfer to baking pan and smooth the top.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.