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Everyone has a cookbook that they don't get enough use out of. Mine (or should I say, one of my many) is The Bread Baker's Apprentice; by Peter Reinhart, a respected figure in the artisan bread baking community. Although the science of baking is definitive and clearly broken down, the recipes did intimidate me a bit. For one, precision cooking is not necessarily my forte. I am one of those add a little bit of this and a little bit of that type of cook. However this preciseness is imperative in baking as there needs to be a perfect balance between flour, fat, liquid, and the leaveners. On a personal note, I have been making a concerted effort to step out of my comfort zone, so I thought, why not get a little uncomfortable in the kitchen? Plus, baking is like brewing beer, well almost. I have been brewing a lot of beer lately.
This cornbread recipe I have tried several times now, the original recipe calls for rendered bacon fat to grease the pan and crushed bacon to top off the bread, and I assure you it's epic! The recipe below has been modified a bit with an addition of jalapeño and grated cheddar cheese in replacement of the bacon and bacon fat. Raw jalapeño is used over the canned variety, as it adds a nice fruity aroma to the bread. I am guessing I don't need to remind you readers why cheddar cheese is so good in a cornbread.
While cornmeal is not an ingredient commonly found in a traditional Japanese kitchen, I do find myself using it constantly these days - one of my new go to quick meals is shrimp and grits. Coarse ground cornmeal is what I prefer when making polenta and grits because of the texture that it adds, something you won't get from the fine ground cornmeal. You will need to soak the cornmeal overnight, so that the texture of the course grind (which can be sharp) will not tear the gluten.
Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread Recipe
**This recipe requires that you soak the cornmeal in buttermilk the night before.
1 cup (6 oz) coarse ground cornmeal - sometimes packaged as polenta
2 cups (16 oz) buttermilk
1¾ cups (8 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ tablespoons (.75 oz) baking powder
¼ teaspoon (.05 oz) baking soda
1 teaspoon (.25 oz) kosher salt
¼ cup (2 oz) granulated sugar
¼ cup (2 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large (5 oz) eggs
2 tablespoons (1.5 oz) honey
2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter, melted
2½ cups (16 oz) fresh or frozen corn kernels
3 to 4 jalapeños, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped
8oz Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
butter to grease the pan
Add cornmeal to buttermilk, cover and leave at room temperature overnight. This will help to fully hydrate the cornmeal.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF (176°C). Sift together the dry goods (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) in a mixing bowl and stir in the sugars.
In second bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Dissolve the honey in the melted butter and to the eggs. Add to soaked cornmeal mixture.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring with large spoon or whisk until evenly combined, resembling thick pancake batter. Stir in the corn, jalapeños and the cheese until evenly distributed.
Butter the baking dish, I used my Frieling 9” springform pan but a standard 9 x 13-inch baking pan would work just fine. Pour in the batter and move to oven. Please note that the baking time varies greatly depending on the size of the pan. The originally recipe recommends 30 mins, but I easily baked mine for over an hour. You can use a toothpick at the center to check for doneness (it should come out clean) but a thermometer is your best fail proof bet. The bread should be firm and springy, with a medium golden brown top and an internal temperature of 185° F (85° C). Cool bread in the pan for at least 15 minutes before slicing. You can serve warm, or dip it in a bowl of chili. My favorite is fry it slowly in a pan with a little butter until you get a nice brown crust and chase with breakfast coffee.