Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cornbread Sticks

I have to tell you how excited I am!  I finally found a vintage cast iron cornbread pan!

Let me tell you the backstory.

My mom used to have one.  I know this because I remember how much she hated it.  Personally, as a kid, I thought it was a lot of fun to eat cornbread that was shaped like an ear of corn.  I couldn't understand her emotional reaction to a pan.  But, I was a kid, and I moved on and didn't think that much more about it.

Until I became an adult.  A cooking, make-most-things-from-scratch adult.  And suddenly, the urge to bake cornbread sticks hit me.

So, I call my mother-in-law, who lives right behind me.  Like, "I can see your house from my kitchen" behind me.  In exchange for borrowing her equipment and ingredients on pretty frequent occasions, I often rescue her and my father-in-law from TV dinners.  It's a good setup.

But, she didn't have one of these cast iron pans that I desperately wanted to borrow.  She used to.  But, no longer.

My mom lives 3 miles away from me, which is barely any distance at all, unless you want to borrow her pan and you wanted it in the oven 5 minutes ago.  But I call anyway, for next time.

She didn't have hers anymore either.

What in the world is going on with my mothers???

Now, I refuse to make a special trip to Cracker Barrel to buy one of these pans, and furthermore, I refuse to spend 30 bucks on one.  Pass.

But the culinary stars aligned on my recent vacation to the Outer Banks.  My sister-in-law and I left the napping children behind with the napping mother-in-law at the beach house and went thrift store shopping.  (And are there culinary stars??  Hmmmm....)

Totally my new kind of vacation souvenir shopping.  Totally.

And what was laying there on the bottom shelf immediately when I walked in the door?

A cast iron cornbread stick pan.  Vintage.  $8.95.

No lie.

My heart started racing and my palms began sweating with excitement.  It would come home with me.

Wondering about the actual recipe, are you?  Oh, yes.  Wonderful.  Delicious.  Fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside.  Just like a cornbread stick baked in a vintage cast iron pan should taste like.

Cornbread Sticks
Slightly adapted from Leite's Culinaria

2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon oil (I used olive, but prefer the lighter flavor of canola)
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup fine-grind stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (add 1/2 tbl. of white vinegar to regular milk as a substitute)
1 large egg, lightly beaten


Position the oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 425ºF.

In a small heatproof bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Use a pastry brush to coat each corn stick pan well generously with the butter. Place the corn stick pan in the oven to heat while you mix the batter.  (Adding the batter to a heated pan will prevent the cornbread from sticking).

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the buttermilk, egg, and the oil and use a large spoon to stir the batter slowly (I used my stand mixer), just until the ingredients are combined. Batter might be a bit lumpy if stirring by hand.

Remove the corn stick pan from the oven and spoon about 2 tablespoons of the batter into each well. The batter should fill the well to the rim.

Bake the corn sticks until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and tops are lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes.  Let the corn sticks cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes (but no longer than that).

Use a small, sharp knife to loosen the edges of the corn sticks and carefully transfer the sticks from the pan to the rack.  Serve warm.

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