NO PHOTO – A THOUSAND WORDS SAYS IT ALL
Sounds pretty disgusting doesn’t it? Well I was going to call it Honey-Glazed Flatbread but that conjures up something thin and crispy, whereas my cornbread was like wafer-thin fudge!
Since I’m always touting myself as a good cook, I thought it only appropriate to let my readers know that I, too, sometimes make mistakes and when I do….well this time I made more than one and oh well, here’s how it went down.
I got up early yesterday morning to bake the cornbread I planned on serving with dinner Saturday night. I had my friend Barbara as a house-guest and had invited Michael (who was bereft of house guests for a change) to come over for dinner. And that’s a funny aside also; I sent him a text on Friday when it occurred to me he might not have company over the weekend and so why not ask to eat dinner with us. I asked him to come over on Saturday and then for some reason I said, “or Sunday”. That was a mistake! He promptly wrote back and said Sunday would be fine. So now I had to figure out a way to gracefully renege on Sunday and push for Saturday. Why? Because I realized I would not have anything to serve him on Sunday whereas we were having turkey cutlets on Saturday he only eats chicken or turkey. I sent another text asking him if Saturday were out of the question, adding I had a friend here who would leave on Sunday and I was making turkey cutlets. In my heart of hearts I KNEW he opted for Sunday because being younger and of sound body and mind, his Sunday routine lately has been to go a Boot Camp exercise class at 7am on Sunday mornings. Well be that as it may, I really hoped he would acquiesce to Saturday and thank God, he did.
Back to preparing the cornbread (before breakfast and before my Grandé Americano, you see how I’m setting the stage for my soon-to-be-fatal mistakes. Fatal that is, for the cornbread. The night before I had Barb shear the kernels off an ear of corn, so I had that component ready. I re-read the recipe and then looked up the various ways to make a substitute for buttermilk, since I opted not to buy a quart of something no one was going to drink so I could have a half a cup for my recipe. There are about 6 ways you can make substitute buttermilk and I’m pretty sure I picked the wrong one! The easiest way would be to put some lemon juice into milk and let it sit for about 10 minutes. And there was also a method involving vinegar and then there was the one with Cream of Tartar.
Now seriously, why would I pick that one? I have no idea! I don’t know what Cream of Tartar is and I think I read once that you could polish your silverware or your chrome faucets with it. Oh well, I chose that method probably for the reason that I have a huge tin full of spices I never use and I was sure there was some Cream of Tartar ( I keep conjuring up some kind of Eastern European warriors) in there. Strike 1.
First challenge was that all the methods called for making a cup of buttermilk and this one required 1 Tablespoon of Cream of Tartar. I should only use 1/2 Tablespoon and for some lack-of-caffeine-brain-not-engaged reason I think I filled my tablespoon measure about a 1/3 of the way – WHAT was I thinking? AND I don’t know the shelf life of Cream of Tartar but I’m pretty sure this one is from the other millennium. Strike 2 – I looked at my milk choices in the refrigerator and again, some kind of brain freeze took hold – I didn’t pick the Almond milk and I didn’t pick the 1% milk. Oh no, I picked the Hood Dairy Drink! Duh where does it say MILK on the carton? That’s Strike 3! I set the milk or fake milk aside and waited for the clumps to form as the web site said would happen.
Next I carefully, measured out the butter (unsalted) into 4 tablespoons melted and 2 tablespoons melted. I got the honey out of the cabinet, as well as the flour, an egg, the baking powder and some sugar. Everything was mise en place, and the oven was pre-heating. I lightly greased the pan. I whisked the dry ingredients together and made a well and added the egg and some melted butter and honey and the buttermilk which had no clumps! I mixed the ingredients together and poured it into the pan. Right away I realized something was wrong – I had forgotten to gently fold in the corn kernels!!!! Strike 4 I should have quit right then and there. I scraped it out of the pan and back into the bowl and added the kernels. Not sure as how much more greasing the pan needed so sprayed a little bit more and the thought, fleeting as it was, flew through my mind that some of pan grease was now in the mixture – I dismissed that thought. Strike 5!?
Pouring it back into the pan, it looked very flat and thin to me and I thought perhaps my pan was not 9″ x 9″ but maybe 10″ x 10″. Oh well, into the oven it goes. I set the timer for the shortest amount of time recommended because it looked so thin and my oven is ancient, never really sure it heats up accurately.
Thirty minutes later, the kitchen smells good and the toothpick came out clean when inserted. However, I did note that it seemed only the tip of the toothpick went in before striking the bottom of the pan! It looked wierd; Pale yellow and flat. I made the honey butter glaze and with pastry brush, spread it across the top of the bread.
Once it cooled, Barbara thought we ought to taste it. Mmmm interesting – NOT exactly what we expected. Actually Barbara thought it not only looked weird, it tasted weird too. It was more than dense…it definitely looked and felt like fudge. Optimistically, I cut it up in squares and put it on a plate to serve later with dinner.
Dinner is served! The turkey cutlets are golden brown in their panko crumb crust and dressed with a lemon, wine, caper sauce, the corn looks succulent and sweet (and it was), the Caprese salad looks beautiful on a white platter – juicy red tomato slices, mozzarella and fresh basil julienne sprinkled all over. We had a mélange of zucchini and Golden Egg yelllow squash and Vidalia onions sauteed in olive oil and seasoned with thyme. Then there was this small plate of pale yellow squares, I urged everyone to try. No one said a word, no one asked for seconds.
When Barbara and I were cleaning up, I mused over the strange consistency and flavor of my cornbread. It was at that moment, I had an epiphany! Once when I was making scones in the Tea Room and they were coming out flat, I thought perhaps it was the Baking Powder which may have gotten damp and old. SOOooooo I went to the cabinet, pulled out the baking powder AND OMG – the expiration date was Best used by December 2009. What kind of cook/baker has 5 year-old baking powder in her cupboard? One that clearly doesn’t bake a lot! There’s no such thing as Strike 5 or 4 for that matter, game over, I’m out!
Moral of the story: Remember that baking is a science, it’s not creative cooking.. Every ingredient and its amount is there for a reason. Start to substitute and improvise and you don’t get a delicious, sauce, soup or stew – NO you get cornbread fudge!
Footnote: Dining under the stars, slathered in Skin So Soft, citronella candles on the patio, t was a delightful evening!!