I always think of cornbread in terms of shape.
I grew up with triangles.
That was the shape of Grandmama Marie’s pan and for much of my childhood that was the only way I thought you could make cornbread. It was only later that I discovered that you can shape this quick bread into any shape you can manage to create in cast iron.
What is it about the shape anyway?
It’s all about the crust. The more edges that you have on your piece of cornbread the more crust you have.
“So – shape matters.“
And just like donuts and cookies, crust and shape will allow you to dunk. There is nothing better than dunking crusty cornbread in black eyed peas, taco soup, or in the case of my mother – buttermilk.
Of course you can make cornbread in a baking pan and cut it into squares, but for me this is a different food altogether. This cake-like, dessert-textured bread is often made with significant sugar so it can be very sweet.
Cornbread made in cast iron, especially with stone ground corn meal, is much more rustic and flavorful. Supermarket cornmeal is ground with steel rollers so that most of the hull and germ is removed making it have the texture of wheat flour.
But with stone ground corn meal, field corn is literally ground between two large stones and it retains some of the hull and germ which greatly enhances its flavor. Having said that, I feel cornbread does need a little more refinement than using pure cornmeal so I include some flour to lighten the batter.
The stone ground corn meal used here is from Barton Springs Mill in Dripping Springs, Texas and is a particular variety called Bloody Butcher Red. It is grown locally here in Texas in the small town of Rockdale. You will be rewarded when you make recipes from heirloom grains and this one is no exception. This burgundy colored meal is loaded with corn flavor.
Barton Springs Mill will ship this and all of their amazing products to you but also look for a local miller using local grains in your area to make sure we continue to support these artisans.
This recipe is somewhat unusual for cornbread in that it contains sourdough and yeast. Most of the time these are simply quick breads that contain a chemical – like baking soda – as the leavening agent. This recipe has that as well but the addition of a sourdough starter provides both punch in the rise and also a wonderful light tang on the finish. This combination is perfect for black eyed peas.
Why no triangles?
My friend and neighbor Darlene Marwitz of The Marfa Line fame called and asked if I would like two extra cornbread pans she had – and they were corn sticks. These pans are often considered novelties, but they bake beautiful small cornbreads that in fact look like small ears of corn.
They are small – and when the pan is blisteringly hot it can be difficult to “spoon in the batter” evenly as is called for in many recipes. Save your fingers from blisters by putting the batter in a pastry bag which will allow you to quickly pipe the cavities evenly.
Although I am nostalgic for triangle shaped cornbread, my mom is not giving up her pan anytime soon. I will be making corn sticks for now.
1/2 cup sourdough starter (see note)
3/4 cup stone ground corn meal, I used the Bloody Butcher Cornmeal from Barton Springs Mill
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 large egg
1 cup water with 2 TBS dry milk powder
1/4 cup canola oil plus extra for the corn stick pans
Preheat oven and cast iron corn stick baking pans in a 450F oven.
Mix all the ingredients and combine until you create a smooth batter. Place the mixture into a pastry bag and set aside.
Remove the corn stick pans from the oven and coat evenly with canola oil or a baking spray. Carefully pipe the batter into the molds until they are about 3/4 full. Place the pans back in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until brown on top and slightly crusty but not burned on the bottom.
Remove the pan from the oven and let them sit at room temperature on a rack for about 1 to 2 minutes and then turn them out into a bread basket. Serve immediately with butter.
Makes 12 corn sticks.
Note: This recipe calls for a sourdough starter which can be obtained from a local source or grown in your kitchen.
#cornbread #stoneground #cornmeal #sourdough #cornsticks