Cornbread is a popular quick bread in America, especially in the South, a place I've visited and long to go back to.
It's common to dish it up with barbecue and chili in the summertime. I've used cornbread in turkey stuffing for the holidays. But cornbread is versatile and deserves credit year-round.
About a decade ago, I used to buy a convenient store-bought mix of honey cornbread that boasts on the package "natural," along with a box of cornmeal. One day a reader of "Callie's Cabin" said she reads my column, and I smiled. But then she darted the remark with a reprimanding tone: "You used a box mix?"
It made me pause. Her comment was like that sound you hear when accidentally scraping your fingernail on a blackboard or when a Food Network judge frowns after tasting your work. So, yeah, it was an "ah ha" moment.
Since then, I've gone back in time, much like in the 20th century. Cans and boxes of food are not in my pantry or freezer. When I cook and bake it's more homemade-style, like this batch of cornbread, which is what my mom would whip up to serve with grilled chicken or fish. It's just as easy as the box stuff but tastes a bit better.
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1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ cup sugar
1 large organic egg
¾ cup half and half
¼ cup orange juice (squeeze from an orange)
1/3 cup European style butter or extra virgin olive oil (save a bit to grease dish)
2 tablespoons orange rind
Raw honey and butter
In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, baking powder and sugar). Add wet ingredients (egg, half and half, juice and butter). Fold in rind. Pour batter into lightly buttered 8-inch by 8-inch dish. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes or until firm and light golden brown. Cool. Serve warm.
You can slice squares from the dish or turn it over and out, cut slices and serve on a plate. Serves 10-12.
Callie's Tips: *You can add 3/4 cup fresh late summertime blueberries, blackberries or strawberries. *Honey butter (3/4 butter and 1/4 honey) is popular in northern regions.
*Cornbread freezes well. *This recipe makes about eight to 10 muffins.
Enjoy this cornbread with fish soups, grilled poultry or fresh salads like I did.
Cornbread takes me back to our former Marie Callender's on U.S. 50. It was years ago. I'd always enjoy the salad bar with mini cornbread loaves and honey butter. But, these days you can purchase online bags of the original cornbread mix (the items notes "made-from-scratch-taste, just add water, no trans fats").
Still, making this hearty quick bread with cornmeal and your own ingredients is good. The citrusy twist and local honey sweetens it up for the end of summer outdoor meals and for upcoming cool autumn days and nights.
Motto: Go back in time to savor homemade cornbread, whether it's at your favorite restaurant, the Deep South, or as a kid.
Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, and Tea) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is http://www.calorey.com.