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10/16/2011

~ It's a Triple-Corn Jalapeno Cornbread Kinda Day ~

PICT2809I take my cornbread seriously, but, I am not going to proclaim that mine is the best recipe known to mankind.  Why?  Because if I walked into a room full of people right now and struck up a conversation about cornbread, the cornbread lovers in the room would chime in unison, "I have the absolute best recipe. I'd be happy to share it with you."  If there were a native Southerner or two in the room with us Yankees, there would no doubt be a full-blown lecture about Southern cornbread being the only "real" cornbread.  The spirited discussion that would subsequently ensue would revolve around the "rights" and "wrongs" of cornbread baking, or, Northern- vs. Southern-style cornbread.  With just one or two very, very minor deviations, I classify my cornbread as Southern.  I think my Southern ancestors would be proud!

"Perhaps no bread in the world is quite as good as Southern cornbread, and perhaps no bread in the world is quite so bad as the Northern imitation of it." ~ Mark Twain

~ Southern cornbread has a larger ratio of corn meal to wheat flour than Northern versions, and many cooks in the South add no wheat flour at all.  I've tried it both ways and my preference is to add a bit of wheat flour to the mix.  Corn, which is both a vegetable and a grain, lacks gluten which is what allows wheat flour to rise.  My position is:  a bit of flour does cornbread a world of good.  The ratio I like best is three parts corn meal to one part flour.

~ Southern cooks are adamant about using buttermilk, and buttermilk only, to make cornbread.  I have done it using plain milk and I am taking this position:  buttermilk is essential to a great cornbread.

~ Southern recipes almost always stir in a small amount of liquid fat:  oil, melted butter or bacon drippings.  I am a melted butter kind of girl.

~ Southern purists add no sugar to their corn bread.  I dislike sugar-free cornbread, and, since this is a free country, this Yankee woman puts sugar in her cornbread.

~ Southerners are the first ones to personalize their cornbread with flavorful additives like corn kernels and bacon bits.  Diced chili peppers are frequently added to spice things up.  I've tried all three and I'm taking this position:  they are all great when added singularly or in conjunction with each other.  The more the merrier where cornbread is concerned. 

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1 1/2  cups yellow cornmeal

1/2  cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  tablespoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon baking soda

2  teaspoons sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper (optional)

2  extra-large eggs, beaten

1  cup buttermilk

4  tablespoons sugar

1  cup creamed corn

1  cup whole corn kernels, fully-cooked and shaved off the cob, or, canned and well-drained

2  tablespoon finely-diced, crisply-fried bacon (optional)

1/4  cup well-drained, pickled jalapeno peppers, diced (optional)

1/4  cup melted butter (1/2 stick)

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing baking dish

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~ Step 1.  Prep and have ready any optional ingredients to be added and set them aside.

~ Step 2.  In a large mixing bowl, using a large spoon, thoroughly stir together the dry ingredients:  the corn meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt and optional white pepper.  Set aside.

Note:  This can be done up to a day ahead.  How convenient is that!

PICT2720~ Step 3.  In the microwave, melt the butter.  Set aside about 5 minutes, to cool slightly.

~ Step 4.  In a medium mixing bowl, using a fork, beat the eggs.  Using a large spoon, add and stir in the following wet ingredients, plus the sugar:  buttermilk, creamed corn, whole corn kernels and sugar.  Stir in any optional ingredients.  Add the butter and vigorously mix until sugar is dissolved, about 15-30 seconds.

PICT2730~ Step 5.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Using a large spoon, stir until the batter is just combined.  Don't overwork it and don't worry about any lumps.

PICT2732~ Step 6. Transfer into an 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish that has been sprayed with no stick cooking spray.  How easy was that!

PICT2782~ Step 7.  Bake on center rack of preheated 400 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until cornbread is golden brown on the top, starting to pull away from the sides of the dish and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.  It's hard to wait, but place baking dish on a cooling rack and allow to cool slightly before diving in, 30-45 minutes: 

PICT2836It's a Triple-Corn Jalapeno Cornbread Kinda Day:  Recipe yields 9-12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  large spoon; fork; 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish; cake tester or toothpick; cooling rack

Cook's Note:  To make an absolutely wonderful blueberry cornbread, omit the white pepper and optional additions (bacon bits and/or jalapeno peppers)... although, personally, I like the combination of blueberry and bacon a lot.  Instead, add 2 extra tablespoons of sugar to the mixture and 1-1 1/2 generous cups of fresh blueberries!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, commentary and photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 

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