Wednesday February 19, 2014 | 01:17 PM

Cornbread is just plain delicious and so easily made from scratch.  There’s no need to use a cornbread mix because in terms of preparation time there’s little difference between both methods.  And making your own is so much more satisfying.

Many country cooks, especially from the south, customarily use self-rising flours instead of adding the leavening to plain flour and cornmeal.  These flours are typically enriched and processed. 

Another consideration is whether to use white or yellow cornmeal.  There’s absolutely no difference: white is from white corn and yellow is from yellow corn.  However, southern cooks primarily use white cornmeal while northern cooks prefer the yellow variety.

I’m offering two completely different cornbread recipes here.  One is a very delicate, buttery mix that’s great to use as a base for creamed chicken or as the bread accompaniment to a refined dish. 

This is a very buttery cornbread.  Serve it with creamed chicken over slices of warm cornbread.

The other is more unusual because it’s made with yeast, which imparts a totally unique flavor and texture.  It’s not difficult to make and the bread only needs one rising.  This is a very rustic style cornbread with loads of character.  It’s great for picnic fare, fried chicken, braised beef, roast pork and other hearty dishes.

This cornbread with yeast is made with locally milled cornmeal.

Both styles, though, are made in cast-iron skillets.  This is essential.  It gives the cornbread its special texture, and the sides will emerge crispier than if you put it in a metal baking pan.

For the buttery cornbread, the ingredient’s list calls for both self-rising flour and self-rising cornmeal.   To make your own use 3/4 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt whisked into each 1/2 cup measurement of flour and cornmeal.

Buttery cornbread

Servings:  6 to 8 slices

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup self-rising flour

1/2 cup self-rising cornmeal, yellow or white

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup good quality buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the butter into an 8-inch cast-iron skillet and put in the oven to melt, making sure it doesn’t burn. Remove from oven.

Meanwhile in a medium bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, eggs and buttermilk.  Twirl the butter in the skillet so that the sides get greased.  Pour the butter into the batter.  Mix gently and pour back into the hot skillet. 

Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely colored.

Corn light bread

Servings: 8 to 10

This hearty cornbread is made with yeast and here I used a locally ground cornmeal from Fairwinds Farm in Topsham.  The recipe originally appeared in Miss Mary’s Down-Home Cooking by Diana Dalsass  chronicling the local cooking from Miss Mary’s Boarding House in Lynchburg, Tenn., and is adapted here.

1/4 cup butter

2 cups cornmeal (yellow or white)

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast

2 1/2 cups buttermilk, heated to lukewarm

About 1/2 stick or more melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the butter into a 9 to 10-inch cast-iron skillet and place over low heat to melt the butter.  Rotate the skillet to grease the sides. Remove from heat and let butter cool (you don’t want the heat of the butter to kill the yeast). Also when heating the buttermilk do not let it get hotter than 110 to 115; use an instant read thermometer to test.  It should feel lukewarm to the touch.

Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl stir together the cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and yeast.  Add the buttermilk and stir just enough to combine.  Add to the butter-filled skillet; cover with a tea towel and put in a draft-free spot to let rise for 30 minutes.

Bake the bread, uncovered, in the oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and pour the extra melted butter over the cornbread.    Serve hot

 

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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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