Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Old Fashioned Corn Bread

On our trip to Napa Valley last month, we visited Bale Grist Mill Historic State Park near St. Helena. It was an absolutely beautiful stroll through the woods to reach the historic site where early settlers would gather to have their grain ground to flour by the water-powered mill. We brought home a bag of organic stone-ground cornmeal produced at the mill and I tried out a recipe to make old fashioned cornbread!

"The slow turning of the old grind stones and the dampness of the mill's site gave the meal a special quality for making cornbread, yellowbread, shortening bread and spoon bread. 
As old timers put it, "When meal comes to you that way, like the heated underside of a settin' hen, it bakes bread that makes city bread taste like cardboard." " -- Bale Grist Mill CA State Park Information

When I opened the bag of cornmeal, I could see what they meant-- the texture of the cornmeal was so soft and plush, but not overly fine or chalky the way traditional white flour can be. One cup of cornmeal made a whole loaf that lasted us for weeks: it made for a great lunch with a soup and salad, a yummy side for dinner, and even a quick breakfast that we could just heat up in the mornings and have with a glass of milk!

Adapted from Grandmother's Buttermilk Cornbread on
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 all-purpose cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I did not have buttermilk so I used lemon juice and regular skim milk, described in the directions)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8.5 inch loaf pan.
  2. Heat the butter in a bowl in the microwave briefly. Remove from the microwave when a small solid of butter still remains and stir to completely melt. 
  3. *I did not have buttermilk so I used lemon juice with skim milk instead* Buttermilk is not butter and milk; rather it is milk that has been slightly curdled with acid, giving it a thicker consistency. The ratio to substituting with regular milk is generally 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to every 1 cup of milk. Stir and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. 
  4. Combine the buttermilk with baking soda and watch for a slight bubbling. This shows that the baking soda is still fresh and that the bread will rise sufficiently. 
  5. Add the eggs, butter, and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until well blended. Pour in the buttermilk and baking soda mixture. Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. 
  6. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
There you have it, fluffy and fragrant cornbread! Yum!

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