Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pecan Cornbread

While I made a plain cornbread with the first servings of Squash and Pinto Bean Chili, when I served the leftovers, I wanted to try something different that would hopefully match the sweetness of the chili. I set out to make a bourbon-molasses cornbread with pecans, but the resulting bread was distinctly dominated by the pecans…Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I began this recipe with my favorite cornbread recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. I’ve been using an organic stone-ground cornmeal from a local mill, which is quite lovely. It actually tastes like corn. Go figure. Anyway, my usual cornbread is also good with more standard and easily available commercial brands of cornmeal, so you could use that, too. Also, instead of white, all-purpose flour I use whole wheat pastry flour, which not only boosts the WFQ* of the cornbread, but makes it taste great. I veered away from the original recipe by using molasses instead of honey to lightly sweeten the cornbread as well as give it a bit of that distinctive molasses flavor that I thought would go well with the chopped pecans.

The bourbon was for an extra little flavor boost. It was indeed subtle in the final product, but interesting nonetheless. Its flavor comes out best in a bite of warm cornbread. In fact, it really isn’t exactly a flavor, but more of an aroma for the tongue. Like the taste buds are picking up the molecules of toasty oak, caramel and alcohol that are wafting in with the bite of baked corn and wheat and eggs and milk. Subtle, but interesting.

Since the molasses flavor is not very strong, the pecans ended up being the favorite characters. They’re sweet and nutty and make the bread chunky and bumpy and crunchy, definitely a good accompaniment to the soft, sweet and earthy ingredients in the Squash and Pinto Bean Chili.

As usual, this cornbread is best the day it is made, preferably while it is still warm. The leftovers can be reheated and are still pretty good, but the bread does dry out quickly. I recommend that, if at all possible, you use a cast-iron skillet to make this or any cornbread. It will distribute the heat evenly and give you the nicest brown and crunchy edges. Baking cornbread in any other vessel just isn’t the same. You wouldn’t have to use the bourbon in this recipe if you don’t care to. I think another form of whiskey or rum might be good, or you can leave it out entirely.

*WFQ: Whole Food Quotient

Pecan Cornbread with Bourbon
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

You could use all-purpose flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour.

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ teaspoon fine salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
2 tablespoons molasses
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey (optional)
1 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Place 1 tablespoon butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet (or 8-inch square baking pan) and place in the oven. When the butter has melted, remove the pan from the oven and brush the bottom and sides of the pan with the melted butter.

2. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Set aside to cool slightly.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt and baking powder. Whisk or sift to combine. Set aside.

4. Beat the eggs in another medium bowl. Add the melted butter and whisk well to combine. Add the molasses, milk and bourbon and whisk to combine.

5. Add the egg mixture to the cornmeal mixture and stir until just a few dry spots remain. Add the pecans and stir gently to distribute evenly.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 425 F for 20-25 minutes or until the edges are brown and pull slightly away from the sides of the pan. If desired, you can test for doneness by poking a wooden pick into the center of the cornbread. If it comes out free of wet batter, it is done. Cut into wedges (or squares) and serve warm.

Makes about 6 servings.

Other recipes like this one: Pumpkin Oatmeal Quick Bread with Dates and Pecans, Guinness Hazelnut Quick Bread

One year ago: Roasted Winter Squash Puree

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