Here is the first promised cornbread recipe featuring Shagbark’s stone ground corn and spelt flours. Might I suggest making it to go with the Shagbark turtle beans recipe I posted previously–that’s what we had for dinner last night and it was a hit with Kat, Zak and Brittney, not to mention, myself.
To give you a feeling for how good these beans and cornbread recipes are, consider the fact that Zak, when I met him liked neither beans nor cornbread. I gradually converted him to the wisdom of complimentary vegetable proteins as a delightful meal option over the years, but normally, under no circumstances would he eat the same beans and grain dishes within two weeks. However, when I proposed making the Shagbark turtle beans and cornsticks again, he grinned and nodded avidly. I even was able to pry Kat from the snowy playground at her preschool by telling her what was waiting for her at the dinner table when we got home.
THAT is the mark of good food.
So, anyway, here are a few quick notes and tips about making this recipe. You -can- make this recipe in a regular baking pan or even a preheated cast iron skillet, but I prefer making it in my cast iron cornsticks pans. They are available from Lodge in their preseasoned Lodge Logic line. You can also get antique versions from garage sales, antique stores and thrift stores, or if you are lucky, you can inherit one or two from a grandmother or great aunt.
So, if you are going to use the cornstick pans, make sure they are well seasoned–that’s what makes the Lodge Logic so nice, by the way–you don’t have to play with seasoning them–and make sure to preheat them in your oven. This ensures a nice crispy crusty exterior.
Now, for the tip–you can put the pans directly on your oven racks. HOWEVER, if your racks are like mine, the wires like to grab onto the bottoms of the cornstick pans because the oblong corn shapes just seem to want to fit perfectly into the grooves of the racks. This is somewhat of a pain in the tuckus, as the pans are hard enough to get into and out of the oven for two reasons–one–they are heavy and two–they don’t have convenient hand holds for you to grab onto. Add these little issues to the fact that your oven rack seems to want to hold onto the pans and you may find yourself burning a hand and then cursing me roundly for talking you into making cornsticks in the first place.
Fear not! I have a solution to that problem. As you can see, you can set the cast iron pans into a regular sheet pan upon which you have set a silicone mat. The mat keeps the cast iron from skating around on top of the sheet pan, which is no fun, and if anything more dangerous than trying to wrest it from the clutches of your wire rack!
Another tip for you–filling the pan. First, spray the pan with canola oil spray. Yes, it is non-stick, but the oil makes every little corn-kernel shaped indentation come clean without argument. And believe me, you don’t want to argue with your cornstick pans.
You -can- use a ladle to fill your pans, but I personally prefer to scrape my batter into a four-cup measuring cup and use that to pour the exact amount you need into each indentation. I almost always overfill the pans if I use a ladle, but it never happens with the measuring cup method. Overfilled pans can become a mess, since the batter will run out of one side of the pan onto the bottom of your oven and burn, though if you use my sheet pan and silicone mat method, the extra batter will be caught there and will not burn, but bake into little crispy nuggets that are not very pretty, but still taste good. They make good puppy snacks if you have a dog who insists on helping you in the kitchen. (Cats, however, are not impressed by cornbread nuggets.)
Now that we have discussed the mechanics of cornstick making, let’s talk about how they taste made with really fresh corn flour and spelt flour. They bake up really beautifully, and the spelt flour, having a bit less gluten than wheat flour, gives the cornsticks a tender quality that is very cake-like and delicate. The crust still crisps up nicely, but the interior is very light and almost fluffy, which is part of why Kat and Zak like them so much.
I added spices to the recipe, which perfectly complimented the natural flavors of the flours, and for the fat, I used melted butter. If you wish, you could also use melted lard or bacon drippings, or if you are a vegan, you could use a neutral flavored vegetable oil like corn, canola or sunflower oil. (Please don’t use olive oil–I did that once with cornbread and it tasted weird. I am sure that if I experimented, I could make it work, but that one experience has made me shy away from the olive oil when it comes to baking with cornmeal.)
One more observation–the spelt flour in this recipe tinges the batter a sort of brownish yellow instead of the clear bright yellow you might be used to if you make cornbread with white flours. The finished product turns out to be a lovely golden brown color that no one seemed to mind as they scarfed them down with great glee.
Locavore Love Cornsticks
1 cup stoneground yellow cornmeal (if you can get Shagbark’s, I urge you to give it a try!)
1 1/4 cup whole grain spelt flour, again from Shagbark, if you can get it.
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 teaspoon. baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
dried ground chipotle to taste (start with 1/8 teaspoon)
2 eggs, well beaten (these came from High Bottom Farm in Guysville, Ohio)
1/4 cup wildflower honey (locally sourced, preferably–I use Cantrell’s from here in Athens County)
1/4 cup melted butter or lard or vegetable oil (for this, I used melted butter from Hartzler’s Dairy of Wooster, Ohio)
1 1/4 cups milk (From Snowville Creamery, of course!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional–but it tastes really good with the spices)
2 cast iron cornstick pans
canola oil spray
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Put clean, dry cornstick pans in to preheat for ten minutes or so.
Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl or in a large measuring cup, stir together liquid ingredients, including the egg.
When your oven is preheated and the cornstick pans are hot, stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients to make a thick, fragrant batter. Scrape the batter into a large measuring cup with a spout, or if you are brave, break out a ladle.
Take out your cornstick pans, and spray them lightly with canola oil. Do not skip this step if you want your cornsticks to come out whole.
Using the measuring cup or ladle, pour batter into the cornstick pans almost up to the rims of the corn-shaped depressions. The pans should sizzle–this is making a crisp crust on your cornsticks.
Put them into the oven and bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until your cornsticks are puffy and browned.
Remove from oven and with a thin spatula or table knife, flip the sticks out of the pan, and wrap them in a towel to keep warm. If you have any batter left, reheat a pan, spray it and repeat the process until all batter is used up.
This will make around 21 cornsticks, which is enough for 4-6 people, usually.
Note: If you don’t have cornstick pans, you should, but I understand if you don’t. This is also good baked in a cast iron skillet–follow the same procedure with preheating it to make a nice crispy crust, and spray it lightly with canola oil. Pour in all the batter, and bake between 20-30 minutes until brown on top and a broomstraw inserted into the middle comes out clean. Or, instead of a cast iron skillet, you can use an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan. Just don’t preheat that–just spray it, scrape in the batter and bake it for about 20-30 minutes.
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