Indiana Daily Student

Cornbread a simple yet rewarding effort

I once had a co-worker who was beholden to cornbread. Joy was her name, and day after day she would head to the local deli where she bypassed the blintzes, tortes and puff pastries for the soup of the day and a generous hunk of cornbread.\nAfter months of watching her luncheon love affair, I made the bold suggestion that she try her hand at baking a pan of the cherished sustenance in her own kitchen. I thought it a reasonable suggestion; Joy had asked me for other cooking suggestions and basic recipes to bolster her burgeoning cooking skills. Surely I was right to recommend some basic bread making? \nWrong. Joy froze mid-munch at my proposition, a final morsel of cornbread poised between her thumb and forefinger. I have recognized the same expression on my students' faces when I hand out all-essay exams. With overtones of betrayal and shock in her voice, she informed me that novice cooks toast bread, slice bread and possibly, at Thanksgiving, assist in the tearing up of bread into bite-size cubes for stuffing. But bake bread? They do not even look at such recipes, let alone attempt it, she croaked, fleeing the room in a flurry of golden crumbs.\nI have learned since then that Joy's bread baking angst is shared by many novice and experienced cooks alike. But cornbread is the anxiety antidote for bread baking. Like all of its cousin quickbreads, it is nothing short of a kitchen miracle when the process is compared to the results. It necessitates little to no prep work, the ingredients are inexpensive and it requires few skills beyond stirring and turning on the oven. No yeast is involved; baking powder, and sometimes baking soda, raises the bread. These leavening agents produce delicate bread with a cake-like texture, tender crust and moist center.\nIt gets better. Whereas yeast breads call for some huffing and heaving to develop the flour's gluten and produce the expected chewy texture, the prescription for quick breads is exactly the opposite: work the dough as little as possible. Gluten development must be inhibited in quick breads to keep the end-product light. Just combine all of the dry ingredients in one bowl and all of the wet ingredients in another, and then integrate the two in one large bowl, stirring quickly. Gently mix until any traces of the dry ingredients are gone; do not worry about lumps.\nThe best recipes for cornbread are straightforward: few ingredients and no stringent requirements about details such as pan type or size. A good cornbread recipe can be memorized without effort; the measurements as easily recalled as a best friend's phone number. It can be made in a pan, ovenproof skillet, muffin tin or corn stick mold if you have it, and the amount of sugar and any additional ingredients can be modified to your taste. And, oh, the results are so very fine. Served warm or hot, plain, drizzled with honey or maple syrup, or a lone pat of real butter, homemade cornbread is a shining testament to the joy of home cooking.\nI attempted to convey some of these same ideas in a quick memo to Joy. Perhaps if she had the assurance that the composition was within her range of skills, she would give homemade cornbread a try. I enclosed the note and my favorite cornbread recipe in an envelope, attached it to a box of Anderson's old-fashioned yellow cornmeal and shoved all inside her locker without further mention.\nA hand-fashioned card with news of Joy's kitchen cornbread encounters arrived in my own locker three days later, tucked beside a plastic-wrapped, lopsided corn muffin. On the outside was Joy's abstract interpretation of a smiling ear of corn. Inside, a simple message: "Hallelujah. Love, Joy." I cannot think of three more fitting words to tell the truth of cornbread.\nFor the recipe, click here

Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

Powered by Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2022 Indiana Daily Student