Corn Pones, Ash Cakes, Hoe Cakes, Johnny Cakes and Cracklin' Bread are a few of the names for this simple type of bread that many of you may be familiar with. Though most of us like it in one form or the other and it is featured on many Thanksgiving tables across the nation, our early settlers were apparently not big fans of this holiday staple. Being used to softer breads made with more refined flours, the grainy and gritty texture of breads made with corn meal took a while to gain popularity with the colonists.
Of course some of this also had to do with the fact that earlier and more authentic versions of the bread were more dense and likely made with the stronger tasting yellow cornmeal. Sugar was a luxury item and leavening agents didn't make it into cooking and baking till many years later. As such, the corn bread varieties of the past were often as basic as a mixture of water and cornmeal cooked over an open fire in a skillet, hoe or Jonny board. A treat in those times would probably have been the simple addition of some bacon grease and crackling.
To make the taste more palatable, the settlers of the Northeast experimented with the new and unusual flour that was in plentiful supply and created an almost cake like version of it that is my personal favorite. Living in the South I've tried many savory varieties and have yet to come across one I didn't like but the sweet, spongy version is still the one I prefer to make at home.
However you choose to make your bread, cornmeal is rich in fibre, iron, potassium, assorted vitamins and amino acids and as such makesÂ a healthy and nutritious bread. Check out the recipe below if you're in the mood for a sweet treat that's also healthy and make sure to read the notes that follow so you can customize yours to suit your taste buds and have perfect results!
1 Cup Flour
1 Cup Cornmeal
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
½ Cup Sugar
¼ Cup Honey
½ Cup Melted Butter
1 Cup Milk
1 Cup Frozen Corn
1. Preheat Oven to 400 Degrees.
2.Measure all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
3.Add in all the liquids and stir in well.
4. Add in the frozen corn and stir.
5. Pour into a greased baking tin.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- make sure the cornmeal you use is fresh or else your cornbread can have a musty smell. I store mine in the fridge as it stays fresher longer this way.
- Always mix your cornbread batter by hand. It's supposed to be slightly lumpy so don't over mix it in an attempt to fix the concistency.
- You can opt for wheat or white flour, the difference in taste will be minimal.
- If you want a crustier bread use a skillet, slightly less crusty then use a dark pan and if you don't like yours crusty at all then a regular pan will do.
- The ideal ratio for the ingredients is 1 Cup Flour to 1 Cup Corn Meal. To make it denser you can add more cornmeal and for a more cake like texture use more flour.
- Honey adds more moisture and is a healthier alternative to sugar. However, it can turn the bread dark brown so I chose to use a blend of sugar and honey. You can do without the honey all together but it adds a floral, woodsy almost caramel like taste to the bread so I would highly suggest keeping the recipe as is.
- If you do choose to change the proportion of honey and sugar then here are a few suggestion;Â For each cup of sugar replace it with ½-3/4 cup of honey,Â reduce the liquids (in this case milk) in your recipe by ¼ cup,Â reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees to prevent over browning andÂ add ¼ teaspoon more baking soda.Â (If doing the reverse and adding sugar instead of the honey, add more liquid, raise oven temperature a bit and reduce the baking soda a tad)
I know, that's a fair amount of math at the end. Feel free to ask for help in the comments below if you start getting confused. I'm always happy to help!
Honestly though, if the empty plate on my table is any testament to this recipe, it tastes perfect if you like sweet cornbread and you hopefully won't need to make any adjustments.