Friday, February 11, 2011

Soaked Cornbread and Other Things I'm Loving.

Whenever I start a sit down dinner on a Friday night, I remember to appreciate. It would be easy for me to feel a bit bad that I'm not going out and about, seeing shows or fine dining (or just plain dining out), but rather am home-bodied and set for nourishments of my own creation.

My days have been kitchen heavy. Figuring now that this "nourishing diet" thing has really stung me hard, I try and super-nourish my boys, picky as they are, at the expense of creating more work for myself. This morning, I started the cornbread that we'd eat for dinner tonight, and I was careful not to mention to anyone within my earshot all day that it contained yogurt and whole wheat flour. It fermented a good 8 hours at room temperature, before I added the eggs and remaining ingredients, and scooped it gently into a generously buttered cast iron skillet: a number 6 as seen above. It baked up feather light, and no one the wiser that it was actually nutritious.

I wish I didn't get so overwhelmed at the flavors of these things. If the only thing I could tell you about traditional diets it that they are a bit time consuming, and that you'd probably have to quit your job and be nearly Amish to do a good job of it, some of my readership (such as it is) would be spared the little spark in his/her own mind to give it a go. But the truth is, the flavors are so much better than the quick versions, and I don't mind the planning ahead a bit. This cornbread in particular makes me feel as if any yellowish cornbread version could not hold a candle when compared bite for bite. And, having only a paltry 3 leftover wedges leftover only confirms my suspicions.

image from Amazon.

I rented the Culinary Institute of America's New Book of Soups from the library a few weeks ago, and the inspiration has led me to success in incorporating more soup into our diet. I count it a personal success that tonight's soup had cleverly disguised acorn squash politely cubed to the exact same size as some red potatoes that were sprouting up to heaven from my CSA box last fall. No one was the wiser, and even the bigger of the two boys ate an impressive amount of the veg from the Bolivan Beef Stew. (The little one choked down his 5 bites before negotiating more cornbread.) I think it helps that no matter my excitement, I act as if nothing is new and I couldn't have made a more mundane supper - even if I really think nothing is further from the truth.

The best thing about renting a book written by a renowned authority like the CIA is that things are simple and rely on core ingredients and simple technique. I actually followed the directions for this soup, and tell me: who follows directions for soup? Well, I guess I didn't fully follow. I used a quart of home canned tomatoes instead of 2 cups of plum tomatoes and 1 cup of beef stock since I didn't have any on hand, and also subbed in a couple spoonfuls of my candied jalapenos for a fresh, stemmed, seeded, and chopped one. But, I did not add garlic and the last time I checked, doesn't almost every soup on the planet have garlic in it? CIA has an awesome soup book, and you should check it out.

whole wheat, soaked cornbread.

Since I'm on the subject of awesomeness, and I read everywhere that urban beekeeping is the new hot thing, I am proudly devoted (for some time now) to Gentle Breeze Honey. Situated in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, Gentle Breeze produces a wonder. This honey is affordable, raw, and comes in pint or quart canning jars that I can reuse. They are even thoughtful enough to make their labels easy to peel off after a 5-minute soak in warm water! At about $10 a quart, it isn't a luxury honey that I have to judiciously spoon onto a corner of my bread and savor. I can loll about in it's tastiness, using it to bake with, and still enjoy it perfectly well on a piece of toasted sourdough bread. At this point, I am not jumping on the beekeeping bandwagon. I am supporting Gentle Breeze Honey, and finally remembering to write down why I love them so much.

image from Gentle Breeze Honey.

I used it both in and on this remarkable soaked cornbread. Really, the pre-mixing takes less than 5 minutes, and then assembly later in the day maybe another 10. Patience is a virtue, but especially for things as delicious as this - when the payoff makes you look forward to being a habitual planner. Since I appear to be in full out love-fest mode, I really love this website Kitchen Stewardship as well. Many of their recipes come with "levels of healthiness", which is to say that they have quick versions, soaked versions, and other adaptations all written into their base recipes. I like that a lot, since sometimes we aren't all on the same page and we need a bit of variation.

Soaked Cornbread (Kitchen Stewardship - I only adapted the way I put things together...)
  • 1 c. yogurt
  • 1 c. yellow cornmeal
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil or butter (I used about half and half)
  • 2 T. honey
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • heavy pinch of salt
At least 8 hours before you want to make cornbread for dinner, mix together yogurt, cornmeal, and wheat flour. Make sure it's well combined, and leave it at room temperature (somewhat warm) to ferment.

When ready to make cornbread, preheat oven to 400.

In a small bowl, beat eggs. Add in honey and melted butter and/or coconut oil and beat together well. Then, add in baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and stir. (It will start to fizz up, but I like to add the baking powder and soda to the eggs because you reduce the risk of a Boy-O telling you something doesn't taste good in the finished baked good...)

Because it starts to fizz up, be ready to pour it into the fermented cornmeal/flour/yogurt bowl right away after you make sure you blended it well.

Mix until everything is well incorporated, and to tell you the truth, I used my hands. I didn't want to run the risk of over beating, and my hands were clean. (Actually, I just used my left hand, since it's good kitchen logic to leave one hand clean - you know, just in case.)

Pour batter into a well buttered number 6 cast iron skillet, or an 8x8 glass baking dish. Total baking time will be about 20-25 minutes, but I found that I needed to reduce the heat to 350 at the 15 minute mark since the edges were starting to brown a bit too quickly. A tester should come out fairly clean when inserted near the center. Let cool in the pan several minutes before cutting into it.

As another week passes, and I am still happily geeking out about traditional foods, I read this link to the Northwest Edible Life that Sean from Punk Domestics shared today. In a nutshell, it's funny but good information that I thought about most of the day. After all, I don't want to be the person that looks down on others and the way they choose to eat, I just get so excited (usually due to taste) and then want to share. I find myself wondering if others think that I'm that "Urban Homesteading A**hole", except that I'm not raising chickens and bees in the backyard, and struggle yearly making a garden I'm actually proud of. I sure hope not. I just sincerely hope that if you are the least bit curious, and you have an "epicurean palate", you will give soaking grains a try.

Not only because it's getting closer to Valentine's day, I love soaking grain. I love my Family. I love Friday night at home. I love being a geek. I love that it takes me a full 2 hours to do the dishes after dinner because I refuse to dry a dish, and because I have to pause to play with puzzles. I love that I am able to share things I love with you... since sometimes I can't divulge as much information as I'd like to my picky boys. Thanks a lot!


  1. What a great post! And a great perspective on Friday night. The soaked cornbread looks amazing & I'd love to give it a try. My go-to recipe has been Reinhart's buttermilk soaked cornbread, but this whole-wheat, less-sweet recipe sounds delish.

  2. Question for you - what kind of cornmeal are you using? I've got it in my head that soaking grains is more effective with stone-ground grains, for some reason... and have been looking for a good local source for corn meal.

  3. Lo, I get the cornmeal from the bulk bins at the Outpost... and like it fine, though it's probably not "local". From what I understand, corn is so "hard", soaking really does nothing to unlock the nutrition - it should be soaked in lime water (or nixtamalized like the masa flour is) to break it down. I intend to visit Great River Milling out near my parents when I'm there sometime this Spring. I know they are have great grains, and are one of the only mills in Wisconsin. They may sell bags of milled grains at Outpost - I know they do at the food co-op in LaCrosse... but I'm not certain the grain is Wisconsin grown.


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