Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bread Baker's Apprentice 10/43: corn bread

My Dad recently told me that he doesn't like it when I write only about food. He wants me to tell a story each and every time. Which I would love to do but, you know, sometimes I don't always have a tale. Sometimes I am at a loss for words. (How is that possible?!) But since Dad worked so hard at my house today -- without any lunch, even -- to build the final piece of my glorious pantry, I shall regale him (and everyone else) with a vignette that has nothing to do with Peter Reinhart's corn bread.

When I was little, maybe eight or nine years old, Dad's friend Ross had a powerboat that he kept docked in Sandusky, Ohio, on the shore of Lake Erie. There were a few wonderful summers when we'd go out on that boat all the time, speeding to and fro along the Ohio shore, darting here and there and making a lot of noise and eating sandwiches. The marina wasn't that far from Cedar Point, and I'd always nag and beg and plead to take the boat to the amusement park so we could take a quick ride on the Gemini, the Mine Ride or Cedar Downs, the awesome fast-moving carousel that had racehorses (the horses would "race" each other and when I was very young I used to think that it was actually the rider's skill that made a horse win or lose). But on Ross' boat, no matter how much I nagged, we never went to Cedar Point.

Until one day when we found ourselves out on the open water, determinedly heading in a specific direction. I kept repeating, "Daddy, are we going to Cedar Point? Daddy, are we doing to Cedar Point??" He kept saying, "No. No, we are not." I knew him too well, though; a tiny smirk emerged behind all the "no"s and a slight twinkle in his eye let me know that something was up. Sure enough, we puttered into the marina serving the park and though it was late in the day I was absolutely thrilled for a few hours to run amok and scream.

During my lifetime I've probably been to Cedar Point 20 times. But -- with the marked exception of the time I was little and Dad won me a big stuffed dog -- I don't remember any of those trips like I remember that late afternoon "surprise" visit. And (cue his twinkling eye) Dad probably even rigged the carousel so my horse would win.

And so from that hot summer day many years ago to this hot summer day, when I made corn bread. I have always considered corn bread to be a cooler-weather bread, seeing as how it goes so well with chili and soup and the like. But the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge already has me accustomed to baking out of season, so what's the big deal about corn bread on a hot July day? Exactly.

Plus, I told myself, it might make even more sense to make Peter Reinhart's corn bread in the middle of summer: his recipe includes corn kernels, and we all know that corn is best in summertime.

Now, I already have a favorite corn bread recipe, one cooked in that most favorite piece of cookware, a cast iron skillet. I was curious to see how Reinhart's would measure up. Sure, his recipe includes all sorts of elements meant to thrill and excite the eater: bacon, for one (well, turkey bacon, in my case) and the aforementioned fresh corn. So on paper, it is the superior corn bread.

But in reality, I have to admit, I like my old standby more. It is rustic and crispy and crunchy, whereas Reinhart's is moist and sweet, almost like a corn bread cake. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But there's something I like about lifting a wedge of the plain stuff out of a blackened cast iron skillet and eating it right away, while the crumbs tumble down my forearm. With Reinhart's I feel like I need to get a plate and fork.

Which is not to say that Reihnart's corn bread is going to waste. Such a thing could never happen, not in my house. And I might even find myself making it again, as I am certain that the bacon topping and sweet kernels suspended throughout the crumb would please many a palate, especially around Thanksgiving time. But until then, I'm sticking with the old fave, the Cedar Downs of corn bread. See how I brought that all together, Dad?


The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge asks that we do not share Reinhart's recipes. But if corn is rearing its pretty little tasseled head at your local market, pick up five or six ears and turn your copy of the book to page 151. Pay no attention to the temperature outside; think only of the corn bread.

Also, check out some of my fellow Bread Bakers and their fruitful attempts to bake corn bread in the sweltering heat:
  • Over at Way More Homemade, Donna also compares corn bread recipes and chooses another over Reinhart. I don't feel so alone anymore.
  • At Appoggiatura, Haley initially doubts Reinhart but is won over. I particularly enjoy her lament of dirty bowls (this recipe does require a lot of bowls), as I feel like I spent the entire weekend doing dishes.
  • The Other Side of Fifty turns her cornbread into salad!


Susie said...

Your cornbread looks great. Love how you made yours. :)
Nice baking along with you,

Unknown said...

thats better

Dianne said...

See Dad, I knew you'd appreciate that!

Laura said...

Great story. I went to Cedar Point literally every summer for most of my life, usually multiple days. And those racing horses might be the best thing there. Seriously.

I can't reconcile the bacon on a sweet cornbread. Which is odd because I love bacon and I love my cornbread super sweet and cakelike. But the 2 seem odd to me somehow.

Dianne said...

Laura, you loved Cedar Downs too?! They are my favoritest. In fact, looking up the ride on the Cedar Point Web site so I could link to it here actually brought a tear to my eye. So many wonderful childhood memories!

Yeah, the bacon and sweet cornbread together just didn't do it for me. I found myself picking off the bacon, enjoying it, and then eating the cornbread separately.

Cindy said...

I love that you told a story for your dad!! I always think of cornbread as a summer bread because you can put fresh corn in it. Plus, I always slice and grill the leftover bread and serve it with grilled BBQ chicken or steak.

Dianne said...

Cindy, I love the idea of grilled corn bread...thanks for the tip!