by Sheila Connolly
A couple of weeks ago I went to the Brimfield Antiques Fair, which I try to do at least once a year, and came back with a set of cast-iron corn stick pans. I’m sure we’ve all see such things, but these were mini-ones (yes, I already have and use the larger size—one was my mother’s), which I’d never seen. I bought three of them.
|The new ones and my mother's|
Of course I came home and Googled them, because it’s kind of hard to guess the age of cast-iron stuff. There are quite a few offered on eBay, to my surprise—and even more surprising were the prices people were asking for them. Hey, I paid $4 each for mine, which I thought was reasonable. I think they’re “vintage” rather than “antique.”
I do make corn sticks now and then, particularly to go with a hearty pea soup for dinner. But these new pans are for little ones—defined as “tea-size” in the eBay ads. I have a favorite recipe, from a Farm Journal bread cookbook that I kind of appropriated from a roommate of mine when we shared our first apartment (I’m sure I’ve used it far more often than she would have).
I was going to use cornmeal ground at a mill in nearby Plymouth, a recreation of the original one built around 1625 to grind the Pilgrims’ corn (wheat doesn’t grow in this part of Massachusetts!). Its first miller was John Jenney—my 10x great grandfather, a fact I learned only recently. I did have some cornmeal from there, but I used it all. I’ll be going back, now that I know it’s a family business!
This is what the Farm Journal calls “Yankee-style” corn bread.
Golden Corn Bread
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease your pans very well, and heat them in the oven while you’re mixing the batter.
1 cup sifted flour
¼ cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
Scant 1 tsp salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup soft shortening
In a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the cornmeal.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs with a fork, then add the milk and shortening (yes, it will be lumpy). Add the liquid mixture all at once to the dry mixture. Stir with a fork until it is just moistened (do not overmix—ignore the lumps).
|The Tupperware thing, loaded|
Now I faced a challenge. With regular corn stick pans, you can spoon or pour the batter, but these are baby sized. Then I had a brainstorm! I bought a Tupperware frosting applicator last fall, and it’s just the right size to squish out a thick thread of batter into the pans. (Don’t overfill them!)
Bake the corn sticks in the hot oven for 10-12 minutes, or until they are raised and golden-brown. And serve along with your petit fours and watercress sandwiches for your ladies’ tea!
Note (or maybe I mean Confession): These are kind of a work in progress. When I make them again, I would put even less batter in the pans (and it’s important to clean and grease and reheat the pans between each use, or the sticks, uh, stick), and I’d probably use a finer-grind corn meal, so the pattern from the pans would show up more clearly. And I might experiment with non-corn batters as well.
Oh, yes, there's this book that came out last week. Nell Pratt and FBI agent James Morrison seem to eat a log of scrambled eggs for dinner (they're busy people), but I bet corn sticks would go nicely with the eggs.