Having been born in central Europe, I do not have any birthright to talk about corn bread. But – maybe I’ve earned some right by baking it tons of times over the years, trying and tweaking and refining my recipe?
I bake it so often because it is both my party trick and my everyday trick. I make corn bread to go with a soup on a weekday to turn something like the Andalusian soup into dinner. I make it to go with a big pot of chili sin carne to feed a crowd.
Corn bread is a safe bet no matter who is coming for dinner, because I have yet to meet somebody who does not like it. Even the pickiest children who will not touch the chili sin carne, or the salad, or the guacamole, that I provided, will eat the corn bread and come back for seconds.
So here’s how I do it:
I always soak the polenta beforehand for at least 4 hours – if you don’t do that, the bread will be unpleasantly gritty. This is actually the only hard part about making the corn bread – not the soaking obviously, but remembering to do it in time – I aim to do it the night before I want to bake.
I use butter in the batter – quite a bit of it. I like to spice the bread up with finely chopped chili and sweeten it with a bit of honey and a dash of cinnamon. And because our corn is ripe at the moment, I like to add some kernels sautéed in butter.
I like to bake the corn bread in my beloved tarte tatin dish and serve it in wedges like a cake, but it could just as easily be made in a loaf pan. I just think that because the corn bread is a little crumbly when hot, slicing it in wedges is easier than trying to slice a loaf and have it fall apart. After it’s cooled, it is no longer an issue though.
Corn bread with sweet corn and chili
160 g (1 cup) polenta
250 ml (1 cup) buttermilk
½ cup butter + 1 tbsp butter
1 ear of sweet corn, shaved
150 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp honey
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 chili pepper, finely chopped
60 g (2 ounces) coarsely grated hard cheese ( I use Dutch cheese but you can use anything you like)
In a bowl or a big jug, mix together the polenta and buttermilk and leave to soak for at least 4 hours or overnight in the fridge.
When you’re ready to bake the corn bread, preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 F).
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small pan and add the corn kernels. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and sauté until tender, about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the freshness of the corn. Set aside.
Melt the rest of the butter and let cool a bit. Use a little to butter a 24 cm (9 inch) baking pan.
Add the flour, baking powder, egg, honey, cinnamon and finely chopped chili to the soaked polenta mix and stir to combine. Add the melted butter and season the batter to taste. Lastly, add the sautéed kernels and grated cheese. Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake until risen and golden or until an inserted skewer comes out clean, about 25 minutes.