Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Peter Reinhart's Corn Bread

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I don't admit that summer is coming to an end. I have to admit that the vegetables at the farmers' market are end-of-the-season vegetables, however, and I wanted to bake something with the lovely corn that's available now. I also had a pound of great-tasting Nueske's bacon. When I ran across this recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice--a cornbread made with fresh corn and bacon, I thought I'd found nirvana. Then I read the recipe--always a good idea--and saw that I was supposed to do Step 1, soaking polenta in buttermilk, the day before baking. Well, this was Sunday, my baking day, and I didn't want to bake on Monday. So I pouted for a while. Then I realized that the only reason to soak the polenta was because it was coarse-grained, so if I just used a fine-grain corn meal, which I had, there would be no reason to soak it. Admittedly, there was the chance that I'd be missing out on something spectacular that the coarse grain would add, but I was willing to take that chance.
Since I didn't have to do Step 1, I could start out with Step 2, baking the bacon.

I wish my mother had told me that if you just lay strips of bacon in a sheet pan and bake them for 20 minutes or thereabouts, you avoid the dreaded attack of the bacon grease and you don't have to turn the pieces and it's just generally a lot easier. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've told my daughters, neither of whom cooks a lot of bacon.

Step 3 is cutting the corn off the cob.

My mother did tell me that white corn is sweeter and more tender than yellow corn, but usually I can only find this bicolor. Corn in general--whether white or yellow--seems to be sweeter than the corn I remember from childhood, but that may just be my imagination.

The batter is thick and creamy--it's supposed to look and feel like thick pancake batter, and it does. And then, just add the fresh corn, and it's done. I found a 16-ounce bottle of buttermilk, and the recipe takes exactly 16 ounces, so this is a no-guilt, no-waste buttermilk recipe.

Just to make sure it's not too healthy and boring, you grease the pan with leftover bacon fat which you quickly heat up in the oven.

Then bake until it's nice and brown. Serve as soon as possible. Jim says this is the best corn bread he's ever eaten, and I wouldn't disagree. It's possible that it's better if you make it with the more coarse-ground polenta, but I like it so much this way that I don't feel a need to mess with it. People are picky about their cornbread, so be forewarned that this is a pretty sweet cornbread with a finer texture than many.
It also makes a big pan, and it's not as good the second day as the first, so it's a good thing to make when you're serving a lot of people, who may all tell you that it's the best corn bread they've ever eaten.

Have a great Labor Day weekend, and enjoy the last weeks of corn and tomatoes!

This cornbread is on many food blogs, so, rather than typing up the recipe myself, I'm just going to give you a link to one of the blogs that includes the recipe.


Melinda said...

I have made this recipe and I loved it too.
Lucky you found the exact amount of buttermilk you needed or you would be on that buttermilk treadmill again!

Annie said...

Thanks for the link back!

evil cake lady said...

baking bacon...that's revolutionary!

this looks like a mighty tasty cornbread, with all the fresh corn and bacon. yum.

Goody said...

My mother used to dump something like 1/4 cup of granulated sugar into the pot when boiling corn on the cob. I always thought that was an Illinois thing, but maybe that was a trick in Indiana as well.

I wonder how the second-day bread would stand up to something vulgar like dousing it in chili? Even stale, I'll bet it would beat the pants off most cornbreads.

Anonymous said...

Hey Marie,

Great job (as usual)! The bread looks really tasty...part of me wants to sprinkle sharp yellow cheddar on top (or in the batter). Would that be too much? Is this a good breakfasty bread or can you serve it at Thanksgiving? I really like how its so visually appealing. Plus, bacon is always a welcome ingredient, lol.

I am excited for fall. I know you've had a cool summer, but fall is the best time of year! Hope you enjoy the holiday tomorrow.

Laura, NYC

jini said...

oh yum.....that looks fantastic marie. i just happen to have some neuske's bacon in the freezer and one of those cute little 16 oz buttermilk containers in the refrigerator! yay! maybe tomorrow!

Doughadear said...

Cornmeal was a staple at our house for making polenta and yet we never made corn bread. I don't think I ate corn bread until I began travelling to the U.S. where it would be served instead of rolls in restaurants. I am pretty sure none ever looked as good as yours especially adorned with bacon.

Anonymous said...

Bake the bacon at the usual 350 degrees or so?
Nifty trick for BLT season!

breadbasketcase said...

Did you do the overnight soak of coarse-grained cornmeal? If you say yes, we'll know who the real "no rules" person is.

You're welcome. Thanks for not yelling at me because I didn't type out the recipe.

We just went to a restaurant on Friday (Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, MI) that was having bacon week--they had bacon in everything, including dessert, which we passed on. I do love bacon.

Don't forget to invite the neighbors!

No, I think corn bread is too south for you to run into it much. The fresh corn does make this version especially good.

Yes--350 is exactly right. It's perfect for BLTs!

breadbasketcase said...

I never heard of putting sugar in the corn boiling water. It must just be an Illinois trick. I'm sure it would work--we used to sometimes eat very tough, dark yellow corn toward the end of the season. My dad would claim that the grocer had sold us field corn, and even sugar wouldn't have saved that. Oddly, we ate it anyway.

I thought of cheese myself, but decided against it. I think this cornbread works because it's just the right blend of sweet and savory. If it didn't have the bacon, it would be too sweet, but the cheese might tilt it too much to the savory side. But what do I know? If you try it that way, report back.
I think you could serve it at Thanksgiving, and also think it would make a fine base for stuffing.

pinknest said...

Wow, now this sounds ridiculously good and bacony! I love cornbread, especially jalapeno cheese. But now I will be adding bacon.

breadbasketcase said...

Now I want to add jalapenos!

Barbara said...

Your photos are making me drool. Tons of bacon in cornbread- yum!(We always put in a little sugar when boiling corn too.)

pinknest said...

Spectacular! I have been craving bacon cornbread lately. I love mine with cheese and jalapenos. Nice lumpy bumpy batter!

Anonymous said...

This has got to be prepared in a cast iron skillet .... to die for

Anonymous said...

This has got to be baked in a cast iron skillet ... to die for