Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Cornbread with Green Chillies

Although I've liked the flavour of cornbread that I've made in the past, I've never been really happy with it - the dry crumbly texture can make it  faintly unpleasant to eat sometimes. Nearly all the recipes I've looked at use a very similar proportion of liquids to dry ingredients, so perhaps that's the way cornbread is supposed to be, but I wanted to make something with a softer, more cakey texture.

I wasn't having much luck until I came across a reference in Felicity Cloake's 'How to Cook the Perfect Cornbread' article in the Guardian. She wrote "....food writer Ben Mims, also Mississippi-born, uses equal parts of flour and cornmeal in a recipe judged by the Southern Living test kitchen, no less, as 'perfect'.", although she went on to say that she preferred a denser, more crumbly cornbread. When I checked the recipe, not only did this recipe use half wheat flour, it also had a higher proportion of liquids than most other recipes I'd seen. This seemed worth a try.

During several attempts at cornbread, based on Ben Mims' recipe, I made a few changes - some out of necessity, some just because of a whim! The nearest thing I could find to coarse cornmeal was polenta. Even though Felicity Cloake's article warned against instant polenta and my packet said it was 100% pre-cooked, which made it sound instant, I decided it would have to do. I used a mixture of full fat natural yogurt and semi-skimmed milk instead of buttermilk (and a slightly lower proportion of liquid to dry ingredients), and a mix of chilli-infused oil and butter instead of all butter. The butter was only melted, rather than browned, but was still poured into the batter while hot. Finally, I add a finely chopped, de-seeded, green chilli.

As I was only cooking for two, I halved the recipe, and cooked it in a six-hole silicone shallow bun tray. I do have a small skillet, but I calculated it would be too small - after seeing how much the cornbread rises, I think it would be OK to use, and should give a better crust, as the batter is best poured into a hot pan.

So, I used 105g polenta, 45g plain flour, 1/2 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/8 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda and 1 finely chopped green chilli, mixed together in a large bowl. In a measuring jug, I mixed 150ml full fat natural yogurt, 50mls semi-skimmed milk, 1 large egg and 1 tablespoon of chilli-infused oil.

The wet ingredients were mixed quickly into the dry mix, followed by 45g melted butter (still hot). The batter was divided between six moulds and baked at 220C, until risen and firm - about 15 minutes.

The texture of these were just right - soft, still moist but not too dense but I still need to work on the seasoning, as the flavour was a little bland. Although I picked a recipe which didn't use any sugar, I think a small amount, say a tablespoon or so, might have improved things, and a bit more salt is probably needed too.


Snowy said...

Have never made cornbread, but these look so good. Interesting idea to add some chilli.

Baking Addict said...

I love cornbread and these mini ones look so cute. I've only ever tried it with red chillis but I can see green chillis working beautifully.