Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Cornbread Book

    I received several cookbooks as Christmas presents this year. My daughter Sarah gave me the wonderful little book featured in the title. My daughter Rachel gave me an updated edition of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes. I opened Sarah's gift before we flew back to Maryland to visit my daughter Lia and family. That gave me the opportunity to read the book on the flight and while on vacation at Lia's house.  Not that it was a difficult read. It only has 132 pages, counting the index.  I just usually don't have that much free time to breeze right through a cookbook.  On the other hand, I didn't feel comfortable trying out a lot of recipes, being in a strange kitchen.  I think making 150 tamales over New Year's Eve was probably enough experimentation in Lia's kitchen for one visit.

    The book is hardbound with a very yellow plain cover. It starts with some interesting historical information about corn and cornbread.  The author,  Jeremy Jackson, has a funny style of writing that I enjoyed. The recipes finally start on page 29, so subtracting the index there are only about 95 pages of cornbread recipes. The first one in the book, "Sweet Cornbread",  is the one closest to the recipe I use from the Fanny Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook, "Golden Corn Cake". However, between my use of home grown and ground indian corn vs store-bought cornmeal and the use of buttermilk and baking soda rather than milk and baking powder, I'm not sure the resulting cornbread would seem to be that close.

     Once we arrived home I was very anxious to try out some of the recipes.  The recipe I chose for my initial effort was Nut-butter Biscuits, found on pages 58 and 59.  I found this an intriguing recipe for several reasons. First of all I have never tried adding cornmeal to a biscuit recipe. Secondly, the recipe uses peanut butter for the oil rather than lard or butter. There is a warning in the recipe that the resulting biscuit dough will be very wet. I found that to be the case. My dough wasn't too much thicker than pancake batter. Rather than add a little more flour I simply made drop biscuits They turned out very tasty but it was a little strange eating them. They smelled more like peanut butter cookies than biscuits. Linda was a bit suspicious when I offered her a biscuit, but conceded that they tasted good. I took one downstairs to Grandma Cozy, my resident biscuit expert. She pronounced them to be pretty good biscuits, noting that the peanut butter smell seemed much stronger than the peanut butter taste.  She told me that if I added a quarter cup of sugar to the recipe I could probably call them a cookie.  Now for all of the peanut butter lovers among my family and blog followers I have included the recipe as follows:


    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    2/3 cup cornmeal
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    6 tablespoons peanut butter
    1 cup buttermilk
    1/2 cup heavy cream

Instructions (abbreviated somewhat)

1. Preheat oven to 450
2. Mix dry ingredients, then cut in peanut butter with a pastry cutter
3. Add buttermilk and cream and stir until everything is combined.
4. Turn dough onto well-floured surface, pat into a rectangle and fold in half. Pat again into a rectangle and cut out the biscuits.
5. Put biscuits on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 16 minutes until they're light brown.

Nut-Butter Biscuits

    I did a number of substitutions of course. First of all, why use baking powder when the recipe calls for a whole cup of buttermilk. I used one teaspoon of baking soda and no baking powder. I used pastry flour rather than all-purpose flour since I have pastry flour and I know it will make a lighter biscuit. Last of all, I substituted an additional 1/2 cup of buttermilk rather than use heavy cream because I didn't have any heavy cream in the fridge at the time. The recipe instructions actually suggested that as an alternative. I was not trying to make a low calorie version, I just didn't have that ingredient on hand. The extra buttermilk rather than cream probably contributed to my dough being too wet to fold.  I chose to make drop biscuits rather than add more flour.  The results were good but I intend to try this recipe again using the heavy cream.

   I so enjoyed this little cookbook. It was obvious that the author shared my love of cornbread and that the book had been written as a labor of love. I did a little checking on the internet and found the author's email address.  Then I wrote the very first fan letter of my life. I simply told him how much I enjoyed his book and thanked him for writing it. He had mentioned in the book about the great yellow cornbread vs white cornbread controversy. (This is primarily a north vs south issue.) I told him that I used home grown indian corn instead.  A few days later I got a response from the author, thanking me for my note and asking if I had any recommendations as to indian corn varieties. That makes me "one for one" on getting a personal response to a fan letter.

   I mentioned the book Rachel gave me in the opening to this blog post. Unfortunately, I didn't get to open that gift until we returned from Maryland. It is a much bigger book and will require more time to absorb.  However, I am very anxious to read it and guarantee it will be prominently featured in some future posts.


  1. These would be so good with some jelly in between 2 biscuits...PBJ Biscuits, yumm!! I look forward to the bread recipes. Let me know if you come along any that one use whole grains. I'm switching over to using those exclusively (I know, booooo)!

    1. Grandma Cozy suggested the addition of a jam or jelly pocket for these. I guess great minds think alike. So far as the bread recipes go, I'm working with unbleached bread flour. I like whole wheat too so I will be experimenting with that as well. I do love the white sourdough and would love to be able to bake our own bread bowls.