just. corn bread.


Life is so confusing most of the time.
It's scary a lot.
Because you never know what's coming around the corner to bite you.

I'm one of those people who lives in a constant state of anxiety about The Future.

The Future.

Especially now, when I've kind of realized, that I'm just getting older, and I still haven't made my first million or starred in a movie or even gotten my driver's license. And suddenly, all these Major Life Descisions are creeping around that corner.

What I love about cooking and baking in particular, is that you don't have to worry about The Future. Cooking is an excercise in being present. If you set out to bake a chocolate cake. You'll get a chocolate cake. (And of course, there's uncertainty about the deliciousness of your cake, but regardless, you get a chocolate cake.)

Baking is not like life, where sometimes you give the world love and then it gives you lemons.

I'm so afraid of getting lemons.

But the really gorgeous thing, is that lemons are a very vital part of your cooking repetoire, because, hey man, you can make lemonade. And so really, lemons aren't so bad, and aren't you glad that things turned out the way they did? Because really, everything always happens for a reason somehow?

At least, that's what I tell myself: Everything happens for a reason. Even if that reason happens to be totally the most lame-ass, stupid reason in the world.

You would think that I would follow all this up with a recipe that has lots of lemons. Instead I'm giving you a recipe for something a bit unexpected. Corn bread.

Humble, plain jane, workman, ordinary, everyday corn bread. Corn bread for beans. Corn bread to go with mystery meat. Corn bread with jelly and butter and corn bread warm by itself. Corn bread is the perfect comfort food. Corn bread will always be cornbread and it will always be there for you, even when The Future is looming, hiding around the corner, coming to bite you.

Jeanne Owen's Corn Bread
from James Beard's American Cookery

I am in love with this recipe. It's the best cornbread I've ever eaten ever. It is delicate and rich, without being overwhelming. It is not fancy. There are no expensive cheeses in it. It's. Just. Corn bread.
This is also the first James Beard recipe I've ever tried and I really liked it. According to Beard, this recipe is from a lovely woman named Jenanne Owen, who, "Was a brilliant cook and a stalwart discipline of the art of good living. "
I love that, a discipline of the art of good living. Good living is all about discipline. I am a big believer in discipline.
In addition, Mrs. Jenanne often served her cornbread for cocktails "In the form of small square sandwiches filled with bits of ham." Obviously, I want to go to one of Jeanne's cocktail parties RIGHT NOW, only I would probably be the awkward anti-social guest who is too busy eating corn bread and ham sandwiches to actually socialize and get plastered.

1/2 cup sifted flour
1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 eggs well beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
1/3 cup butter

Sift all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs and milk and beat with a wooden spoon. Beat in the cream, and lastly the melted butter. Pour into a 8 1/2 x 11 inch well buttered pan, and bake at 400 degrees, for about 15 to 18 minutes, or until center is baked through. (Testing with a toothpick is a good idea. Also, lightly tapping the surface of the bread is a good indicator for how baked it is.) Remove from oven.
Eat warm, preferably slathered with butter and served with a hearty, earthy comfort foody complement.

p.s. I put some diced mild chile peppers on top. Because I think color is nice.

Baked Butter-Pecan French Toast with Blueberry Syrup

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who love breakfast.
And those who don't.

I was anti-breakfast for most of my childhood.

Unless it involved doughnuts.

You see, I was an egg-hater for a very, very long time. I just couldn't abide eggs. The way they smelled. Or the way they looked or the way they tasted or that weird silky smooth gross texture. For years, I would not, could not eat eggs.
And then one day, not too long ago I overcame my ovaphobia.
Everyday, for the past week, I have eaten an egg for lunch. (Protein!) So miracles really do happen.
Anyway, my egg loathing often made breakfast a contentious issue.

Once I was reduced to eating spaghetti at a brunch.

Not that my ten year old self minded.
But breakfast is an intensely personal meal.
It has to be just so.

That's why I resisted for so long. When going out for breakfast I was always dissatisfied, the pancakes were never as good as they were at home, the doughnuts never as delicious, the syrup fake, the orange juice from concentrate... I'll stop before you go jump off a very tall building. This is just getting worse and worse:
The troubles of living in a wealthy first-world country! When will the suffering end?
Anyway, the real point of the rambling is that I have Come Around To Breakfast If It Is Done Right.
As part of my, "It's for the blog," experimination tactic, I made my favorite cousin drive me to the grocery store at 10 p.m. the night before just so I could make it.

There are two kinds of people in the world: people who like bread pudding and people who don't.

My family split squarly down the middle when it came to a rating for this Baked Butter-Pecan French Toast and Blueberry Syrup dish . Sure, they all ATE it, but that doesn't neccesaily mean they approved.

My little brother Michael, heartily approved. Michael loves bread pudding. He liked this a lot. He had a second helping. He gives it a **** 1/2 asterick approval rating.

My mom liked it, but ate only one portion, because it was very "filling". I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. She thought it was good, but found the blueberry syrup overwhelming, and preferred it simply with fresh blueberries and syrup. ****

My littler brother, Jacob, after completely finishing his portion, and practically licking his plate, decided that he didn't like it. I honestly don't even pretend to understand the way his mind works sometime **1/2?

My dad ate it, and, like Jacob, told me, after finishing, that he didn't particularily care for it. He told me he didn't like the texture very much. He doesn't like "breakfasty casserole things." He also doesn't like bread pudding. **


I had mixed feelings.

I liked it. And I didn't mind eating it. I really liked the pieces around the edge of the pan, which were crisper and more crackly, it was a party in my mouth. I found the blueberry syrup delicious, but thought that it overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the actual french toast. Like my dad, I thought that it was on the unappealing mushy side. And here's the killer. I didn't think the toast without syrup was very attractive. I like food to be pretty. And it just wasn't. *** 1/2

This is not a ringing endorsement of a recipe. But I'm being honest. It was good, but simply one of those things that you either love or despise, or are like me, simply lukewarm about. Give it a go, comment, reflect, tell me about your morning eating experiences, share, kiss, commend, recommend. I'd love to hear your adventures with French Toast.

Baked Butter-Pecan French Toast with Blueberry Syrup
from Gourmet Today

1 (24-inch-long) baguette
6 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/4 salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup pecans lightly toasted at 350 F for about 5 minutes or until deliciously fragrant

For Syrup
1 cup blueberries
1/2 pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Make the French Toast: Generously butter a 13x9 inch baking dish. Cut twenty 1-inch-thick slices from baguette and arrange in one layer in baking dish.
Whisk toether eggs, milk, 3/4 cup brown sugar, nutmeg and vanilla in a large bowl until well combined and pour evenly over bread. Let bread soak for 10 minutes. Turn slices and cover surface with a large sheet of plastic wrap, leaving a 3-inch overhang on each end of baking dish. If necessary place a smaller dish on top to keep bread submerged. Refrigerate mixture until all liquid is absorbed, at least 8 hours.
Put rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine butter, remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, salt, and cream in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir in pecans.
Spoon pecan mixture evenly over bread. Bake until bread is puffed, edges are lightly browned and liquid is absorbed, 40 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile make syrup: Combine blueberries and maple syrup in a small saucepan and cook over moderate heat until berries burst, about 3 minutes. Stir in lemon juice.
Serve toast with syrup.

Consume. Form lengthy, wordy opinion. Post on internet. Realize that you really spend more time than is healthy thinking about breakfast issues. See therapist.

No-Knead Rye Bread

 No knead bread. 
Oh where have you been all my life???
The texture... It's to die for, the crust is swoon-worthy. It's that good. I've been craving hearty, brown, bread. So I made no-knead rye bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. All I'm going to say is: DELICIOUS. While I absolutely think this bread is delicious, next time I'd be interested to try a different recipe. Not that this one wasn't satisfying, but I'm intrigued by other recipes which have molasses and more rye flour. Also next time, I'll use fewer caraway seeds. Not that I don't like them, but I'm not exactly in love with them. 

Deli Style Rye
from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

This recipe calls for a lot of equipment, most of which I don't have. (No baking stone, no pizza peel etc, no boiler tray.) In this regard I improvised a little. I just used baking sheets. And instead of a boiler tray used a little bread pan. 

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds, plus more for sprinkling on top
1 cup rye flour
5 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

Mix yeast, salt, and caraway seeds with water in a 5 quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container. 

Mix in remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14 cup capacity food processor(with dough attachment) or heavy duty stand mixer (with dough hook). If you're not using a machine you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour. 

Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest a room temperature until dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours. 

The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. (Lies. It was still difficult.) 

ON BAKING DAY, dust the surface of refrigerated dough with flour and cup off a one pound (grapefruit size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the sureface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. Elongate ball into an oval-shaped loaf. Allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal covered pizza peel (Or baking sheet.) for 40 minutes. 

TWENTY MINUTES BEFORE BAKING, preheat the oven to 450F, with a baking stone (Or baking sheet.) placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that wont interfere with the rising bread.

Sprinkle with additional caraway seeds. Slash with deep parallel cuts across the loaf, using a serrated bread knife. 

Slide the loaves directly onto the hot stone (Or sheet.) Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, and quickly close oven door. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until deeply browned and firm. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in baking time.