Showing posts with label corn bread. Show all posts
Showing posts with label corn bread. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Writer’s Breakfast: Secret Ingredient Cornbread Squares from Cleo Coyle

On most mornings, my breakfast table
is also my writer's work table.

So the comments on this blog have made it ginormously clear: some of you like your cornbread sweet and some of you think it makes about as much sense as adding garlic to fudge. :)

Certainly, if you’re baking up cornbread as a side dish for a hearty lunch or dinner, then jalapeños and corn kernels are delicious additions and putting sugar in such a mix would be oh-so wrong. But…

For me, well...cornbread is a breakfast food, especially here in New York City, where a toasted corn muffin has been a classic morning deli order for decades. That's why my cornbread is on the sweet side, and I treat it more like a coffee-break cake. 

If you’re no fan of dry, grainy cornbread, this may be the recipe for you (with or without the sugar). The crumb is tender and tasty (more cake-like). The sour cream is my secret, along with my (subjectively favorite) ratio of flour to cornmeal. I often cut the fat and calories by using low fat milk and sour cream; and I sometimes increase the fiber and nutrition by using white whole wheat flour (more on that below).

Are Oranges Safe? Yes! No worries…

This is a peak time for California and Florida oranges. They're a great source of vitamins and with winter taxing our systems, they’re also a good immune booster so don’t pass on them because of that recent issue with some brands of orange juice. 

In a nutshell, orange juice products made from Brazilian oranges are being inspected for a health issue: Brazilian farmers were using a fungicide on their oranges that was not approved for use on foods in the US. There is no recall, and it has nothing to do with oranges grown in the United States. You can read more about the orange juice story by clicking here.

To read about the harvesting seasons for (and varieties of) our California and Florida oranges, click here and here, and eat US-grown oranges with joy!

A note on white whole wheat flour…

What is it? A lighter type of whole wheat flour that gives you the fiber and nutritional benefits of whole grain but with a taste and texture closer to white flour. You can substitute white whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour at a 1:1 ratio. While this won’t work in an angel food cake or puff pastry, you can get good results using it in cookies, muffins, brownies, quick breads, and yeast breads. Learn more from King Arthur flour by clicking here

Cleo Coyle, sweet on
cornbread, is author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

This sweet cornbread is delicious plain, slathered with butter, or even drizzled with the orange blossom honey. And speaking of a slight note of citrus, here’s a second secret to something amazing…

With a bounty of California and Florida oranges cheering up our winter produce aisles (as I mentioned above, this is a peak time to go orange!), I’ve started adding a little orange zest to my morning cornbread. The light orange fragrance in the warm, sweet bread starts off my winter day just right. If you’re not a fan of oranges, leave it out. But it you are, I think you’ll go Lady Ga-Ga for it.

To download a free PDF of this recipe that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Makes one 8- or 9-inch square pan of cornbread (This recipe will also work in a 7 x 11-inch pan.)


1 large egg
1/2 cup milk (whole, 2%, or skim)
1/2 cup sour cream (regular or low fat)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola (or vegetable) oil
1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour (for more fiber and nutrition I often use
          “white whole wheat flour,” more info on this above)
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
(optional) 1 tablespoon orange zest (grated orange peel, no white pith)

CLEO NOTE: I'm adding this bit of info on zesting based on a query in the comments section. If you've never "zested" an orange, lemon or lime, Chef Gordan Ramsay will show you how in the video below... 

CLEO NOTE CONTINUED... Although I do have a boxed grater similar to the one that you see in Chef Ramsay's video, I find a MICROPLANE grater/zester makes zesting citrus fruits even easier and well worth the small investment. To see the microplane tool (and/or purchase one for yourself), click here. To see me using a microplane grater in a recipe, jump to my Key Lime Coolers cookies post by clicking here.


One bowl mixing method: First preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. In a mixing bowl, whisk together egg, milk, sour cream, sugar, salt, and oil. 

When the mixture is well blended and the sour cream smoothly incorporated, measure in the flour and cornmeal. Evenly sprinkle over the baking powder and soda. If using, add orange zest now. 

Switching to a spoon or spatula, mix to create a lumpy batter. Do not over-mix or you’ll develop the gluten in the flour and your cornbread will be tough instead of tender. 

Prep an 8- or 9-inch square pan by coating
with non-stick spray (or buttering and dusting with flour). 

Pour batter into pan and 
spread into an even layer.

Bake in preheated oven
for about 25 minutes. 

When a toothpick inserted in the center 
comes out clean, remove from oven. 

Cool, cut, and... 

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries


To get more of my recipes,
enter to win free coffee, or
learn about my books,
including my bestselling
Haunted Bookshop series,
visit my online coffeehouse:

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the ten titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Southern Sides in a Snap: Corn Pudding

First—congratulations to Helen K.!

Helen K. suggested our next Secret Ingredient for the Mystery Kitchen Iron Chef! She’s won a $25 chocolate gift from Fannie May Chocolates. What was the secret ingredient? Find out during our next Iron Chef week in late February!

RileyAdamsFoodBlogPostpic_thumb_thumb Last week I featured a really easy side item…Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese. I thought I’d post another easy Southern side dish that can be pulled together in a hurry—corn pudding.

Corn has always been a Southern staple. We love it on the cob (with lots of butter and salt.) Dishes like Lowcountry Boil (see below) include corn alongside the sausage, shrimp, onionLowcountry Boil[4] , and potato. And my favorite thing as a kid were corn muffins and cornbread (again…dripping with butter!) Oh…and grits are made from roughly ground corn.

This corn pudding is a weeknight favorite for the family. It takes no time to prepare and the kids love it. You could make this dish less fattening by substituting some egg substitute and some low-fat sour cream. We have the fattening version here. :)

corn pudding

Quick and Easy Corn Pudding

2 eggs, beaten
1 can creamed corn
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 package cornbread mix
1 stick melted margarine
1 cup sour cream

Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Combine all the ingredients and bake at 375 degrees for 30--35 minutes.

For a creamier version, use the same recipe but use a small sized can of creamed corn and a small sized can of whole kernel corn.


Sometimes I think that I’ll make this recipe with fresh corn that I cut from the cob. Maybe even fresh corn that I grew myself! But then, well, it’s the simplicity and ease of this casserole that makes me continue cooking it this way. But one day? When I have a lot of time? I’ll be making this with my own fresh-cut corn and homemade creamed corn. One day! :)

Pretty is as Pretty Dies –Elizabeth Spann Craig
Delicious and Suspicious (May 2010)—Riley Adams

Friday, August 7, 2009

Cleo Coyle's Corn Muffin Tops a la Julia Child

I find it difficult to fathom that cooking in 1949 was far from glamorous. Sixty years ago, celebrity chefs were not whipping up 30-minute meals on TV. Men and women weren’t chucking their Wall Street careers to enroll in culinary school and legions of journalists weren't writing about the latest Chef Prodigy to descend from Mount Gastronome. Back then, working in a kitchen was considered a lowly, non-intellectual profession. It wasn't even an acceptable middle-class hobby. It was something the hired help did.

Well, Julia Child didn’t care. In 1949, at the age of 37, this brave lady walked in to Le Cordon Bleu “weak in the knees and snozzling from a cold,” according to her memoir, My Life in France.

“By now I knew that French food was it for me," Julia wrote after living in France for a year with her husband, Paul.  "I couldn’t get over how absolutely delicious it was. Yet my friends, both French and American, considered me some kind of a nut…They did not understand how I could possibly enjoy doing all the shopping and cooking and serving by myself. Well I did! And Paul encouraged me to ignore them and pursue my passion.”
All I can say is: Thank heaven for the "nuts" of this world!

Julia struggled through her courses at the male-dominated French cooking school, but she soon flourished and began teaching others what she’d learned via cooking classes, cookbooks (her Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume I is considered a seminal work in the culinary field), and a television show, The French Chef, which so many newbie cooks grew up watching.

: I wasn’t one of them. For one thing, I was too young and for another my mother and aunt, who were born in Italy, had already established a culinary tradition in our house of braciola, zucchini frittatas, homemade biscotti, wedding soup, and eggplant con everything (along with my Pop who made his own wine and grappa from the grapevine in our suburban backyard). Beyond them, my wider foodie education really didn’t begin until the 1980's with Jeff Smith’s PBS show, The Frugal Gourmet.
Until I purchased Julia Child’s The Way to Cook in the early 1990’s, my awareness of Child was (in all honesty) limited to Dan Aykroyd in drag.

Click here to go back down

SNL memory lane.

So now there’s a movie (opening today) celebrating the late Julia Child’s life: Julie & Julia, directed by the amazing Nora Ephron. Click here to see the trailer.
Ms. Ephron is truly one of my heroes. Her roman a clef, Heartburn, is a seminal work for me. (That's my battered old copy of her book in the picture.) Well, Julia Child happens to be one of Nora Ephron's heroes; and as I learned more about Child's life, I couldn’t help but admire the woman and be inspired by her, too.

With Ms. Ephron's film opening as a catalyst, I began searching through Julia Child’s massive The Way to Cook for a recipe to discuss: A feather-light soufflé, perhaps? Butterflied leg of lamb? How about duck pate baked in its own skin? Then I turned a page and saw…Buttermilk Corn Sticks. What?! I thought. Corn sticks? In The Way to Cook?! (I’d never noticed this before…)

Definitely dressier than cornbread baked in the traditional square pan,” Julia wrote, “for which I usually use the recipe on the Quaker cornmeal box, corn sticks are so shapely you can well serve them not only at breakfast but at lunch, at dinner, or at high tea.”

Yes, you read that right. Tucked into this 528-page culinary master work, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Julia Child admits to using a recipe on the Quaker cornmeal box! How can you not love this woman?!! But that was Julia, I have to say: After reading her memoir and viewing some of her old shows, I now understand that she was never about haute cuisine for haute sake. What drove Julia Child was a simple, down-to-earth desire to share her hard-earned knowledge and sincere passion for good food.

Click here to watch Julia teach you

how to cook. (She’s such fun, too!)

Back to the corn bread:

Julia is right, of course. The basic recipe on the Quaker cornmeal box is a good one. Still, Julia knew that small changes to a standard recipe could yield even tastier results. She chose to replace the “skim milk” with buttermilk, reduce the sugar to 2 tablespoons, and increase the cornmeal in the cornmeal to flour ratio.
While Julia's is a perfectly fine version, I decided to learn from her example and make my own changes…

(1) Flour Ratio: First of all, the increase of corn meal in the ratio of corn meal to flour troubled me. I personally like the taste and grainy texture of corn meal, but I’m in the minority. My own readers have told me that they prefer a more cakelike corn bread product--so I flipped the ratio, weighting the flour for a smoother textured muffin.

(2) Sugar: Julia stated outright that she simply did not care for sweet cornbread. But I do. So does my husband. When it comes to a breakfast bread or afternoon break with coffee, nothing comforts and satisfies like a sweet corn muffin (so my recipe is sweeter than Julia's).

(3) Liquid: Julia’s choice of replacing the milk with buttermilk was inspired but most people don’t have buttermilk on hand, and I knew milk alone would not provide that slight little “tang” on the tongue that gives the corn bread yet another layer of flavor.

My answer—sour cream. 1 cup of buttermilk in Julia’s recipe became ½ cup milk and ½ cup sour cream in mine.

And finally I had an issue with the stick part of the corn stick molds. You see, no matter how much I buttered or oiled or sprayed the cast iron molds; no matter how much I pre-heated them and re-greased them, some of my corn sticks would stick. And (honestly) how many people even have cast iron corn stick molds in their cupboards?

What to do? Well, Julia herself gave me the solution (providing the "a la Julia Child" part of this recipe). If you don’t want to use corn stick molds, she advises you to:
“…form 2-inch rounds on the
baking sheets with a spoon.”

Muffin tops!

Okay, so Julia didn’t call them “muffin tops,” but that’s what they are in my adaptation of her recipe. As you’ll see in my photos, a 2-inch round with my recipe will spread and rise (with the help of a dash more baking powder) into the exact dimensions of a really good muffin top. You don’t need a muffin top pan, either, just a greased baking sheet, a hot oven, and you’re good to go!

Click here or on the picture above to get
my recipe for Corn Muffin Tops.

(The recipe will appear in PDF format,
which you can save or print.)

In closing, I’d like to leave you with Julia’s own parting words at the end of her memoir, in which she recalls the first meal she enjoyed in France—a dinner that changed her life:

“In all the years since that succulent meal, I have yet to lose the feelings of wonder and excitement that it inspired in me. I can still almost taste it. And thinking back on it now reminds me that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite…”

~ Julia Child

At the end of my own recipes, I always say: “Eat with Joy!” But today, in tribute to one great lady, it seems only right to add:

Toujours Bon Appetit!

~Cleo Coyle, author of The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To get more of my recipes or find out about the books in my culinary mystery series, visit my Web site -