Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bread Baker's Apprentice Cornbread: It's Not You. It's Me.

I wanted to love the cornbread from the Bread Baker's Apprentice. I really did. But there just weren't any sparks. I'll admit I made some pretty bold changes to the recipe without trying it first. I left off the bacon cracklings and halved the sugar. The result? It tasted like it needed ... something. Perhaps bacon? Or more sugar? What a genius idea. Perhaps I'll try following the recipe next time.

Even if I made the recipe just right, I'm not sure I would have fallen in love with this cornbread.

I'm sorry Peter Reinhart. It's not you. It's me.

Let's be honest. I was raised on corn bread by Jiffy. In my mind, it was pure magic. Take that little blue box (just 99 cents!), mix the powdery yellow contents with some milk and eggs and pour the lumpy batter into a cake pan. 45 minutes later you have corn bread -- light and golden, with a delicate balance of salty and sweet. The soft crumb dotted with the crisp bite of cornmeal was addictive. As far as I'm concerned it's still the gold standard. Of course, the list of ingredients is a mile long and many of them were likely invented in a laboratory. What does Michael Pollan say? If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it. But I managed to survive. And my memories are warm and wonderful. I always loved eating my Jiffy cornbread with my mom's homemade chili.

Corn bread comes in one hundred and one varieties and is steeped in memory and history. It is one of those foods that inspires heated debates. Those debates often divide along North and South, like the Civil War itself. Is the Bread Baker's Apprentice corn bread quintessentially southern? Did it offend my Yankee sensibilities? I may need to consult a culinary anthropologist to help untangle the deep roots of taste and memory I've uncovered here. In the meantime, I'm heading to Safeway to stock up on Jiffy.


Sarah said...

I didn't really like the cornbread either. I prefer cornbread that tastes like Jiffy. If I ever find a recipe with real ingredients that tastes like it came from the little blue box I'm sticking with it.

misterrios said...

It's funny- I've had the Jiffy Cornbread like a total of twice, so I can't really measure what it's like.

However, I actually liked this recipe- sans the bacon, with all the sugar and only half of the corn bits- I love Corn Bread, just not corn kernels.

You really should try the recipe in the Joy of Cooking, however. I've gotten mad complements whenever I've made it.

Oh, and this was definitely the most controversial recipe in the book. I think everyone has their own preconceived notion of Corn Bread (or is it Cornbread?), so it didn't go over too well.

But yours sure does look pretty!