For the 'Ultimate Brunch' episode of Perfect, Charita Jones whips up this American-inspired recipe.
• Always check your cornmeal for rancidity before baking. Rancid cornmeal will smell stale and musty; good cornmeal will have a sweeter smell.
• When mixing batter for cornbread or muffins, put away your electric mixer. Mixing by hand helps eliminate over mixing. It is desirable to have a few lumps in the batter. They will hydrate during baking and the lumps will help give a craggy appearance to your breads.
• Once moistened, work quickly with the batter. The moisture will activate the leaveners in the batter.
• Cornbread does not keep well. It is best used on the day baked. Store leftovers wrapped in plastic and then aluminum foil and placed in the refrigerator. Cornbread can be frozen for six weeks.
• Use old-process cornmeal instead of degerminated cornmeal when available. Cornmeal with the germ should be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months. If you have more old-process cornmeal than you will use in six months, freeze part of it. It will keep in the freezer for over a year.
• If you are making cornmeal for stuffing, it can be baked up to three days ahead. Crumble it and keep it an airtight bag. Consider adding sage to cornbread batter.
• Consider substituting whole wheat flour for white flour. With the grainy nature of cornmeal, your kids won’t even know that you slipped whole wheat in on them.
• Consider sugar a variable. A sweeter cornmeal will have 1/4 cup sugar or more for every one cup of flour and one cup of cornmeal. Many southern style cornbreads have little or no sugar.
• When making corn muffins (or any muffins), partially fill any empty tins with water. The moisture will improve the muffins, the tins will heat more evenly, and cleanup is easier.
• Many of us love crusty cornbread. A dark pan will make crustier cornbread than a light pan. For the crustiest cornbread, use a skillet.
• Typical recipes call for cornmeal and flour in a one-to-one ratio. Some skillet cornbreads omit the flour and use extra eggs. These cornbreads are not only very good, they are good for you and an option for those who are gluten intolerant