Oh my ever lovin’ goodness. This is cornbread? That’s what they call it, so that’s what I’m sayin’, but if all you’ve had of cornbread is Marie Calendar’s or the Jiffy from the box, you are going to be stunned and amazed. This is cornbread on steroids, folks. This is bacon-studded, buttermilk corn-stuffed cornbread and it’s absolutely delicious.
This is another recipe from my Bread Baker’s Apprentice cookbook – their lavosh was amazing, and now this. For years I’ve been making a very simple cornbread to which we apply butter and honey and we’ve been quite happy with that. But that’s all changed now. So many things have changed – this is life-changing cornbread.
I can’t even begin to describe the texture – it’s sort of a dense fluffiness that’s created by soaking polenta cornmeal overnight in buttermilk, and when that meets up with the baking powder, it just gets all fluffy and lovely. This is a sweeter cornbread than I’m used to, but that’s beautifully balanced by the saltiness of the bacon, which we really must talk about now.
This recipe calls for 10 slices of bacon and several tablespoons of bacon fat. I don’t often do this the first time I make a recipe, but I did here…I swapped out the bacon for turkey bacon and used canola oil instead of the bacon fat. We loved it, and I don’t think it suffered at all for those substitutions. Having said that, if you decide to go with the turkey bacon (I think Wellshire Farms makes the best), it would be better to stir it into the batter rather than pressing it into the top as the recipe calls for. There’s just not enough fat in the turkey bacon to create the topping that I think they’re going for in this recipe.
In the end, I think I created a version that was a little lighter and perhaps healthier, but with all the great flavors and textures of the original. If you love cornbread, you’re going to want this. You’re going to want this bad.
The Bread Baker's Apprentice Corn Bread
1 cup (6 oz) coarse cornmeal (also packaged as “polenta”)
2 cups (16 oz) buttermilk
10 slices (8 oz) bacon (I used Wellshire Farms turkey bacon)
1 ¾ cups (8 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ tablespoons (.75 oz) baking powder
¼ tsp (.05 oz) baking soda
1 tsp (.25 oz) salt¼ cup (2 oz) granulated sugar
¼ cup (2 oz) firmly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs (5 oz)
2 tablespoons (1.5 oz) honey
2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter, melted
2 ½ cups (16 oz) fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 tablespoons (1 oz) bacon fat or vegetable oil
1. The night before baking the corn bread, soak the cornmeal in the buttermilk. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.
2. The next day, to prepare the bacon, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lay out the bacon on 2 sheet pans. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp. Using tongs or a fork, remove the pieces to a pan lined with paper towels to cool. Drain off the fat into a can or stainless steel bowl and save for greasing the corn bread pan. When the bacon has cooled, crumble it into coarse pieces.
3. Lower the oven setting to 350 degrees F. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl. Stir in the granulated sugar and brown sugar. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Dissolve the honey in the melted butter and then stir the warm honey-butter mixture into the eggs. Add this to the soaked cornmeal mixture. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a large spoon or whisk until all the ingredients are evenly distributed and the batter is blended and smooth. It should be the consistency of thick pancake batter. Stir in the corn kernels until they are evenly distributed. (If using turkey bacon, stir it into the batter at this point).
4. Place 2 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat into a 10-inch round cake pan (you can also use a 9x13-inch baking pan or a 12-inch square pan). Place the pan in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until the fat gets very hot. With good pot holders or oven mitts, remove the pan, tilt it to grease all the corners and sides, and pour in the batter, spreading it from the center of the pan to the edges. Sprinkle the crumbled bacon pieces evenly over the top, gently pressing them into the batter.
5. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the corn bread is firm and springy (the baking time will depend on the size of the pan) and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top will be a medium golden brown. The internal temperature at the center of the corn bread should register at least 185 degrees F.
6. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before slicing it into squares or wedges. Serve warm.