Monday, September 13, 2010

Honey Polenta Cornbread

I've been craving cornbread for a few weeks and with the advent of fall and football season, I decided to kick off a season of Packer games with some chili and cornbread. When I decided to make cornbread, I went to my current favorite baking book, Good to the Grain, and sure enough I already had the recipe for Honey Polenta Cornbread bookmarked. And just like everything else in this cookbook, this cornbread is amazing, the best I've ever had. The delectable crust and swirls of honey butter throughout the batter make this cornbread almost feel like dessert, but not so much so that it isn't perfectly at home dunked into a big bowl of chili. The whole grain flours make the taste much more complex and flavorful, as does the polenta, which also creates a wonderful texture.

Honey Polenta Cornbread
from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce
serves 8

One day, faced with a large amount of cooked polenta, I though to stir some into a batch of cornbread for dinner. It was the best pan of cornbread I'd ever made, moist, with a nice grainy chew. So this recipe calls for par-cooked polenta, which means an extra step in your kitchen, but you'll find it's well worth the effort. I tested this recipe with purchased, precooked polenta, just to see if I could eliminate a step, but it wasn't successful. So just make your own, and eat any extra with some wilted greens and a bit of grated cheese.

This cornbread is delicious-wholesome with a fine crumb and swirl of honey butter throughout. When the cornbread is hot from the oven even more honey butter is brushed over the top as a glaze, which gives the crust its sheen and an extra sweet-bite.

Butter for the pan

1 cup coarse polenta grains, or cornmeal
1/4 t. kosher salt

Dry Mix:
1.5 c. graham flour 
1 c. millet flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
2 t. kosher salt

Wet Mix:
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 c. whole milk
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses
3 eggs

 2 T. (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 c. honey
1/4 t. kosher salt

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter a 2.5-quart baking dish.

2. Make the polenta: In a medium pot, bring 3 cups of water and the salt to a boil. Sprinkle in the polenta grains, stirring constantly to prevent clumping. Turn the heat to low. Continue cooking, stirring occassionally, until the polenta is thick and creamy, about 10 to 15 minutes.

3. To make the glaze, melt the butter, honey, and salt in a small saucepan. Whisk the glaze until smooth and set aside.

4. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of flour or other ingredients that may remain in the sift, and set aside.

5. As soon as the polenta is done, measure 1 cup of it into a medium bowl, add the butter, and stir until the butter is melted and the polenta is smooth. Add the milk, honey, molasses, and eggs to the polenta bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined.

6. Using a spatula, mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, folding the batter and mixing until just combined. Pour half of the batter into the pan and smooth, drizzle a third of the honey butter over the batter, scrap the rest of the batter over the glaze, spread the batter evenly and smooth the top. Drizzle more of hte honey butter of the top, reserving the last third to brush over the finished cornbread.

7. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, the edges have pulled slightly from the side of the pan, and a skewer inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.

8. While the cornbread is hot, brush the last of the glaze over the top crust. The cake can be eaten warm or cool from the pan, or it can be cooled, wrapped tightly in plastic, and kept for up to 2 days.

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