Corn grows in just about every state in the continental US, north to south, east to west. Little wonder that cornbread has been a mainstay of regional cooking since colonial days. Cornbread is one of the simplest quick breads to make. It only takes about half an hour, start to finish, to make a batch, and chances are good that everything you need to make it is already in your pantry.
What kind of cornmeal is best for cornbread?
Like most food questions, it depends on personal preference – and who you ask. In the southern United States, where cornbread has remained a staple, white cornmeal is preferred. White cornmeal is a little harder to find in the north, so yellow cornmeal is typically used, often in combination with varying proportions of wheat flour. We won’t even get into the other differences between northern and southern style cornbreads – that’s a discussion best left for another time.
Bottom line: any kind of corn – white, yellow or blue – can be dried and ground to make cornmeal. While the various colors of cornmeal may look different, they all taste pretty much the same and can be used interchangeably when baking. The other factor is the coarseness of the meal. Cornmeal comes in fine, medium, and coarse ground versions. Again, this is a matter of personal preference. Do you prefer crunchier, crumbly cornbread? If so, use coarse-ground. Do you like a lighter, cake-like texture? Use fine cornmeal. If you prefer something in between, as we do, then medium-ground cornmeal is the way to go.
One other important thing to look for when buying cornmeal: the words “stone-ground” somewhere on the label. Stone-ground cornmeal is ground in the traditional way, including the flavorful, nutritious germ of the corn kernal. Remember that stone-ground cornmeal has more oil and hence a shorter shelf life. Refrigerate or freeze stone-ground cornmeal for long term storage.
Cornbread has a robust taste and texture that is great on its own, but which also makes it very adaptable to other flavors. Since mushrooms are generally in abundant supply at Earthy Delights (and their earthy flavor is very simpático with that of corn), we naturally had to try our hand at making a version of cornbread with mushrooms. As expected, the addition of mushrooms made the cornbread moist and flavorful, yet yielded a toothsome, slightly chewy texture and crisp crust. With pine nuts and rosemary contributing a woodsy note, and a generous slather of easy-to-make Cranberry-Maple butter melting over the top, you’ve got an instant classic on your hands.
Mushroom & Pine Nut Cornbread with Cranberry-Maple Butter
Pre-heating the skillet or heavy baking pan in the oven before adding the batter makes the crust extra crispy and deep golden brown.
- 8 oz fresh wild mushrooms (substitute firm cultivated mushrooms)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 oz pine nuts
- 1 1/2 cups medium yellow stone ground cornmeal
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 – 2 Tbsp sugar (optional)
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 2 large eggs
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 Tbsp unmelted
- Cranberry-Maple Butter (recipe below)
Clean the mushrooms and chop coarsely. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until all liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are dry and slightly browned around the edges. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Place the pine nuts in a small pan and toast over medium heat until aromatic and slightly browned. Take care that they do not burn or scorch – it can happen quickly. When the pine nuts are toasted, remove them from the pan and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a 9 or 10 skillet or heavy cake pan in the oven to heat while you mix up the cornbread batter.
In a large bowl, whisk the cornmeal with the flour, sugar, baking powder, rosemary & salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the milk and yogurt with the eggs and pour over the dry ingredients. Stir gently until just incorporated, then fold in the sauteed mushrooms, toasted pine nuts and melted butter.
Remove the hot pan from the oven and add a tablespoon of butter to the bottom. Swirl it around as it melts to coat the bottom and halfway up the sides. Scrape the batter into the skillet with a spatula and smooth the top.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the cornbread begins to brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, then turn out the cornbread on a rack to cool further.
Cut into wedges while still warm and serve with the cranberry-maple butter.
Cranberry-Maple butter is so good that you’ll want to use it on everything from bagels to yams. It takes less than 5 minutes to make, so it’s easy to whip up a batch when unexpected guests drop by.
Pulse the softened butter, cranberries, salt and maple syrup in a food processor until the cranberries are incorporated, but still slightly chunky.
Scrape the butter into a small bowl if you plan to use it right away. For long-term storage, form into a log by wrapping it in wax paper or plastic wrap with the ends tightly twisted. Place the log into the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Many of the ingredients used in this recipe, and other recipes on the Earthy Delights Blog, can be purchased online at our retail website, Earthy.com. We welcome you to visit the Earthy.com website to view our extensive selection of hard-to-find ingredients and our complete Recipe Collection of over 500 tested recipes.
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