Tonight’s recipe is the happy result of a fun virtual connection. A few weeks back I guest-blogged my first post on a favorite WordPress site. I first visited Blog of Funny Names just under a year ago and was quickly hooked. Well-written, smart, and occasionally irreverent, BoFN offers background on random funnily named folk and–sometimes–geographical locations. I welcomed the opportunity to contribute the occasional funny (food) name, and started things off by writing up cookbook author and writing guru Crescent Dragonwagon. My post appeared to go over well enough, but I had no expectation of actually connecting with my subject.
Imagine my surprise when a friend gave me a heads-up that Crescent Dragonwagon–a woman I had come to admire greatly after my online research–had somehow found my BoFN post and shared it on her facebook page. I quickly shot off a note of thanks to Crescent and she graciously responded and even dropped over to my deLizous facebook page. Two of her cookbooks, The Cornbread Gospels and Bean by Bean, now sit on my shelf. Excited to put them to good use, I brought the cornbread book into the kitchen today. Crescent’s recipe for “Thirded” Colonial Cornbread looked to be exactly what the afternoon called for.
Because Crescent is an established cookbook author and food writer, I guessed that any recipe in her books would be a winner. What I hadn’t counted on, though, was how lovely these books would read. Her intro to the Thirded cornbread taught me that early Colonial Americans made doughs using one-third each rye flour, cornmeal, and whole wheat flour “in order to stretch their thin and dear wheat supplies.” She went on to mention that this particular bread “is can’t-stop-eating-it delicious a few minutes out of the oven, with a little butter. It’s still good that same day, goes quite nicely with vegetable soup or stew, and can be split, toasted, and gussied up with sharp Cheddar cheese melted on each half.” Good information for sure, but it’s also extremely well-crafted prose. I look forward to delving further into Crescent’s books–both for recipes and reading pleasure.
But about that recipe: “Thirded” Colonial Cornbread turns out a lovely pan of hearty and wholesome (and addictive, as Crescent noted) cornbread. The rye was barely noticeable (a plus as my 6- and 10-year-olds would’ve turned their noses up at such a strong flavor) and because whole wheat pastry flour was used, the whole wheat flavor was more of a background note as well. What did come through was a complex earthiness sweetened only slightly (but just enough) by molasses. (Though I subbed in sorghum as I didn’t have the blackstrap called for.) I also added the 1/4 cup sour cream and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda recommended for a moister bread. This cornbread was crumbly, but also firm and it held together well. It seemed the perfect balance of light and dense. I see it working with all of Crescent’s suggestions: a side for soups and stews, a base for bread pudding or French toast, crumbled into stuffing. I’m also excited to top it with honey, yogurt, and berries for tomorrow’s breakfast.
When I started my blog, just over a year ago, my only plan was to write up fun food finds. It’s been gratifying to see posts take shape, but it’s been even more rewarding to connect with other fun folk–foodie and otherwise. I treasure all of these connections and thank all who read foodforfun. Thanks, as well, to Crescent Dragonwagon. What started as a search for a funny name ended with a delightful new connection and a pan of amazing cornbread.
“Thirded” Colonial Cornbread
from Crescent Dragonwagon’s The Cornbread Gospels
- Vegetable oil cooking spray
- 3/4 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
- 3/4 cup whole-grain rye flour
- 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons butter or mild vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups milk, measured into a 4-cup measure
- Heat oven to 375°F. Coat an 8×11-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
- Sift together the cornmeal, rye flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Measure the butter or oil by tablespoon into a small skillet or saucepan, then, using the same thus-greased tablespoon, measure in the molasses. Place on low heat to thin the molasses and melt the fat.
- Beat the eggs into the milk in its measuring cup, and then stir in the warmed molasses and butter.
- Combine the wet and dry ingredients with as few strokes as possible (the batter will be much darker than typical cornbread batter). Transfer it to the prepared pan.
- Bake the cornbread until it is firm and deeply brown, with browned edges slightly pulling away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes. Makes about 12 squares.