A band of renegade and not-too-smart historians argues that the Civil War was fought over cornbread. Should it be sweet, cakey, and yellow? Or savory, white, and crisp-crusted? Is it true that the best Southern cornbread is made with yankee cornmeal? Could this secret heal a divided nation? Our two intrepid historians dig in. Recipes: East Coast Grill Cornbread; John Thorne’s Southern-Style Skillet Cornbread. www.spilledmilkdpodcast.com
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To order Rhode Island-style white flint jonnycake meal (which makes the best Southern-style cornbread), try “Gray’s Grist Mill”:http://www.graysgristmill.com/store/ or “Kenyon’s Grist Mill”:http://www.graysgristmill.com/store/. For northern-style cornbread, we recommend Arrowhead Mills.
“*East Coast Grill Cornbread*”:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/magazine/east-coast-grill-corn-bread.html (via the New York Times)
*Southern-Style Skillet Cornbread*
From Serious Pig, by John Thorne
4 ounces (about 1 cup) stone ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon lard, rendered bacon fat, or peanut oil
1. Preheat oven 425°F. Add the fat to an 8-inch cast iron skillet and place in the preheating oven.
2. Combine the cornmeal, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together the egg and buttermilk in a liquid measuring cup. When the oven is ready, dump the wet ingredients all at once into the dry ingredients, whisk until just combined, and let sit one minute. Remove the skillet from the oven, carefully pour the batter into the skillet, and return to the oven. Bake 20 minutes, then immediately flip the cornbread out onto a plate and serve.
Yield: 2 to 4 servings, depending whether you’re serving it as a main or side dish.
A note to fans of cakey brownies, if you even exist: you can skip this episode. Here at Spilled Milk, we fall on the fudgy side of the Great Brownie Divide, and it’s nice and soft and gooey over here. Join us as we discuss the finer points (and edge pieces, and corner pieces, and middle pieces) of the brownie, with help from Bonnie Raitt, Katharine Hepburn, and a guy named Steve. www.spilledmilkpodcast.com
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“*Alice Medrich’s New Classic Brownies*”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/11/dining/113brex.html (we recommend parchment paper instead of aluminum foil)
Adapted from Katharine Hepburn
1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter
2 ounces (55 grams) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup minus 2 Tbsp. (175 grams) sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup (35 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. table salt
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking dish, or grease it with cooking spray. Cut a rectangle of parchment paper to line the bottom and two sides of the dish, leaving a little overhang. Press the parchment paper into the dish. Lightly grease the parchment paper.
In a medium (2 1/2- to 3-quart) saucepan, warm the butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring occasionally, until fully melted. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the sugar, and stir well. The batter will look gritty. Add the eggs and the vanilla, and stir to blend completely. Stir in the flour and salt. The batter should now be very smooth. Pour it into the prepared pan, tilting the pan as necessary to ease the batter out into the corners, and then bang the pan straight down on the countertop a couple of times, to release any air bubbles.
Begin checking the brownies after 25 minutes, inserting a toothpick into the center to test for doneness. They’re ready when the toothpick comes out clean. The original version of this recipe says to bake them for 40 minutes, but mine are generally ready between 30 and 35 minutes. In any case, when yours are ready, remove the pan from the oven, and allow to cool completely on a wire rack–and I mean completely, or else they’ll be too fragile to cut. When they’re cool, loosen along the edges with a thin knife, pull up the parchment paper to lift the brownies from the pan, and cut them into squares.
Yield: 16 squares