One Wonderful Hot Water Cornbread RecipE
THIS IS A HIGH HEAT, BLACK SKILLET, BAKED VERSION
Cornbread can be an easy quick bread, or it can be an outright absorption, requiring full attention and focus for about 10 minutes if you want to increase the likelihood of getting the perfect combination of crunchy crust and tender, moist interior. If you want to make a perfectly fine skillet of cornbread with the least fuss, ignore all the little added tips and stir the ingredients together, pour into a greased, very hot skillet and enjoy. If you want to work toward toward refinements in crust and crumb, try the extra steps when you have time. Choose your level of challenge!
Note : This cornbread, which is one of Kentucky's cornbread styles, has no flour. It is naturally wheat-free.
Yield: Serves 8–10 from one standard 9-inch black skillet
· 2 ½ cups unbolted white cornmeal; Weisenberger Mill meal is widely available
· 1 Tablespoon baking powder
· Scant 1/2 teaspoon soda (a little less than the full 1/2 teaspoon measure)
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 2 cups whole milk buttermilk; J&H Country Milk sells a fine Kentucky buttermilk
· 1 egg; from your backyard?
· 1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon browned butter, coconut oil or bacon fat (the extra tablespoon greases your skillet)
· 1/4 - 1/2 cup boiling water, or more (optional)
Coarsely ground black pepper, up to 1 Tablespoon, or other forms of peppery flavor (ground or crushed cayenne, of sliced jalapeños, for example) according to taste. Parmesan cheese. Cheddar cheese. Finely chopped or grated onion, shallots, scallions or chives. Finely chopped browned bacon. 1 cup corn kernels. 1/2 cup cottage cheese. Some combination of the above. Experiment.
- Optional: This is not necessary, but it's also not hard. "Sprout" or soak the 2.5 cups cornmeal in the 2 cups buttermilk for up to 24 hours before you begin. This means that at any point from the night before up to a few minutes before you make your batter, your cornbread benefits if you stir together just the cornmeal and the buttermilk and let the mixture stand before you add all the other ingredients. No literal sprouting occurs, but some biochemistry happens that makes your cornbread's interior more moist, particularly if you are using a coarse grind or "unbolted," which is highly recommended for crunch.
- Turn oven to 425.
- As oven begins to preheat, put fat (bacon fat, butter or coconut oil) in a 9" or 10" black cast iron skillet. Put the skilled in the oven to get hot-hot-hot. Special note about butter: if you encourage the milk solids in the butter to brown to the point of gold or even nut brown, your cornbread will have more flavor. Don't worry about having gone too far unless the butter positively stinks, in which case you must begin again. This cornbread is also delicious with simple melted (unbrowned) butter, and bacon fat is amazing.
- Set the water to boil.
- In a large, heat-proof bowl, mix all ingredients except water, which means getting the hot melted fat from the oven and adding it to the bowl, too. Put up to a tablespoon fat back in the skillet to help prevent sticking and add to the crunch of the crust. [At this point I borrow from sister Paula and do a small thing that is not necessary but can boost crunchiness: add up to a tablespoon of fat back into the skillet, and then sprinkle about 1 Tablespoon cornmeal across the bottom of the skillet. Set the skillet back into the oven to keep it blazing hot, or set it on a medium hot burner for a minute.]
- Stir or whisk the ingredients until nearly smooth, maybe 15 strokes. Cornbread batter does not require much beyond a thorough stir.
- If the batter is very stiff, pour boiling water over the top of the batter, a little at a time, and stir, stir, stir. Stop adding water when the batter is like very thick paint or melty soft-serve ice cream. It can be thinner than you think. (This makes a moister cornbread; and the cornbread is harder to brown.)
- Remove the skillet from the oven and pour in batter, carefully.
- Bake until nicely brown and crusty. Times and ovens vary. It will take at least 15 minutes and up to 30. Err toward browner (longer cooking) for best texture and taste.
- Carefully, with thick potholders, remove pans from the oven and either upend the cornbread onto a platter or a rack.
- Eat immediately with butter or flavored butters. Use Kentucky sorghum too. Or Kentucky maple syrup or honey.
Cornsticks or Muffins: You can use cast iron cornstick or muffin pans instead of the single skillet. You may find it easier to melt the fat in a separate small pan instead of using the depressions in these pans, but do put some fat in each depression to help with crunch and release. For crispy cornsticks, the batter works better if it is a bit thinner (from hot water) and fatter (from bacon grease or other fat) than these proportions. But nothing matters as much as having the pans or skillets blazing hot and amply greased before you add the batter. Note that cast iron corn muffin pans bear little resemblance to the deep, cupcake-shaped muffin pans you may already own.