Saturday, December 12, 2009

Transcontinental Cornbread (Crumbfree)

I always seat myself on the south side of airplanes. I like the sunshine on my lap. The clouds, too. Seen from above, their textures are so alien, surreal. They look like the puckering foam on top of bubbling jam pots. I know the bellies of the fatter clouds are indeed flatter from their close contact with the ground, but I'm never quite sure if these thin upper clouds actually have rougher tops than bottoms, or just look like it. From above, the low-angled sunlight highlights their texture so much that they jump into vivid dimensionality--and all we see from the earth is a muted greyness. I suppose clouds will always be smoother where the wind is faster and straighter. I guess that means the middles of thunderheads are all lined up straight, shooting straight up the middle like mushroom stalks or umbrella handles.

I'm heading home again, this time for my first Christmas home in four years. I've been home a lot lately, visiting Grandma, who dropped out of the nursing home to pursue the next life at her leisure. She's beautifully ensconced in a nook in my aunt and uncle's gracious old Lancaster farmhouse. There are cornfields and horses to see, and dry beef gravy, sauerkraut and pork, and molasses-tinted desserts on the tray by her bed.

That's what I think about as I nibble on my airplane food. Airplane food for me consists of last night's cornbread, several ounces of cheese, and chocolate. The cornbread was luxurious, moist, sweet, and toothsomely crusty, and I even baked it with air travel in mind. It's halfway to being baked polenta. No crumbs. And W. Crawford, who was under the weather and came reluctantly to the table, ate four slices last night, and three this morning.

It is imperative that the cornmeal be very fresh--very. Fresh cornmeal tastes of corn and sweetness, and will more than triple the goodness of any bread you bake with it.

Halfway-to-Polenta Cornbread

Mix three cups freshly ground, fine cornmeal with a teaspoon of salt. Bring three cups of water to a boil and pour it over the cornmeal. Stir it well and cover.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and thoroughly butter a well-seasoned #8 or 9 cast iron skillet.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour and half a teaspoon of baking soda.

In another small bowl, whisk together a cup of buttermilk, sour milk, or sour half-and-half and two tablespoons of honey.

Check the cornmeal. I can't remember exactly how much water I used, so splash in some more if it looks more chunky than porridge-like. Add four tablespoons of butter and stir it until it's melted. Mix in the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture and pour into the skillet. Bake until the top starts to brown.


Jennifer Jo said...

This sounds divine. I'm standing up right now to go make me some.

Jennifer Jo said...

So here's the verdict: I liked it, but no one else did (which didn't really surprise me, considering they don't like polenta). It reminded me of a crispy-edged corn cheesecake---that is, if there were such a thing. I guess maybe now there is...minus the cheese.

It's very filling, though. I ate several pieces (the first couple really fast) and now I'm stuffed. The flavor was excellent.

j-st-n- said...

Don't tell me you were in Lancaster and neglected to call! My finals-frazzled nerves couldn't take it.

Rosanna said...

Mama JJ -- Sweet to see you in person today! I hope you don't mind having the leftovers to yourself.
Justina -- Will it help any if I tell you I'll be back up next weekend?

j-st-n- said...

Well, that just might do it. My last test is at 8 am Saturday and then adventures in pecan pie! I've never made one. Perhaps there's a certain someone willing to give some pointers...