Friday, December 2, 2011

Blue Cornbread

There are a few things that I've brought with me from my home state of Arizona. A tortilla press. A precious bag of ground chiles of various heats. And a full bag of blue cornmeal, pride of Arizona farmers. The English seem not have realized  but corn in America comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and, most importantly, colors (yes, yes, beyond the various shades of "yellow" and "white").

Any harvest festival will feature the ubiquitous "Indian corn", which features a fabulous variety of dark purples and reds. But there is also the famous "blue corn", found almost exclusively in Arizona and New Mexico, which is so dark on the cob that it almost looks purple to the naked eye. When ground into meal it gives tortillas and breads a wonderfully nutty quality, a bit more earthy than any other kind of cornmeal I've ever experienced.

I don't use my blue cornmeal often (although I technically I need to before its "sell by" date), but Thanksgiving is the perfect excuse to show the Brits a thing or two about American corn. And what better  way than with cornbread, another typically American concoction? Like biscuits, there are about a thousand and one recipes for cornbread, some involving actual corn kernels, some just sticking to the meal itself. I decided to pick one that emphasized just the cornmeal. Once the Brits decided that the blue coloring in the bread WASN'T mold, it went down a treat. Of course, there's no real reason for blue cornmeal in this recipe, plain ol' yellow cornmeal will work just as well. But, if you do happen to have some of the blue stuff lying around, why not use it?


5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups cornmeal (preferably stone-ground and most preferably blue)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk (not powdered)
1 large egg


Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle.

Whisk together cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl.

Whisk together buttermilk, egg, and melted butter in another bowl, then stir into flour mixture until just combined.

Scoop batter into a well-oiled loaf or cake tin (mine was 9" diameter). Bake until puffed and golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tin for about 10-15 minutes. Turn out onto a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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