My mom would make cake-like cornbread back in the day. For the life of me I can’t remember with what main dish she would serve it. We were Euro-mutts of a definite haole/gringo variety, so it definitely wasn’t anything southwestern, as any spice hotter than grocery store brand pre-ground black pepper would make my Celtic druid hide burst into flames. And we didn’t do a lot of traditional southern cooking, despite growing up mostly south of the Mason-Dixon line. I didn’t have a standard against which to judge it, but I thought my mom’s cornbread was the best in the world. It didn’t have the heavy creaminess from a gallon of sour cream, or the authenticity of freshly roasted corn. But it was perfectly uniform like a slice of pound cake, didn’t have that unripe-banana mouth-feel that some cornbreads have, and was oh-so-sweet. I’d have two or three slices with dinner, then sneak a square out of the room folded up in a napkin to enjoy in my room or on the porch.
Found out later, all she did was take a basic Betty Crocker recipe and up the sugar and add some vanilla extract.
Been on a bit of a summer squash kick lately, and nine times out of ten, when I get into a rut, it’s because I just can’t think of anything else to do, out of a lack of inspiration. But this time, it’s simply because the Mexican greys and gourmet globes and all of the rest have been so dang good all summer long.
The shredded or chopped zucchini gives the bread some moistness without adding sour cream or extra butter, and seems to be a natural fit for either straight-up corn or corn and jalapeño bread.
And like all good non-recipes, you can play with a couple of the numbers. You can go with as little as half a cup or as much as two cups of zucchini, which can be either shredded or finely chopped. Add an ear’s worth of freshly roasted corn, a half cup of frozen, or none of the above. Cut the sweeteners in half or double them. And go a little crazy with the chiles.
Goes great with yesterday’s Hot and Spicy Buffalo Chili.
High Plains Zucchini Cornbread, adapted from The Baking Sheet.
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup corn meal (white or yellow)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
(or one cup whole milk, one Tbs lemon juice or cider vinegar, left to stand for 10 minutes)
2 eggs *
2 Tbs molasses
3 Tbs melted butter
Shredded zucchini: 1-2 large or 2-4 small.** (If all you have are mediums, you’re on your own!)
Optional: ¼ cup each of corn and/or diced chili peppers
* The Baking Sheet called one egg + one egg white, but I hate discarding half an egg. If anyone tries it with the one egg white, let me know what you think.
** Several recipes called for squeezing out the water from the zucchini. I skipped that part and thought it was fine, and not sure what squeezing out the water would get me.
In the good old large bowl, whisk your flours and cornmeal, then baking powder and baking, then salt and brown sugar.
In a separate bowl, whisk your buttermilk, eggs, molasses and butter until smooth and uniform.
Slowly pour the wet into the dry, and stir gently until just combined. Then add the zucchini (and corn and/or chiles, if you’re so inclined) and just barely stir again until it looks all even. Pour the batter into your pan, spreading if needed to even everything out.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until it looks like it’s just about to brown on top. Cool for a few minutes before slicing.
Freezes quite nicely if you wrap it tightly in a zip-lock or plastic wrap. Wrap in foil and warm in a 200º oven before serving.
Serve on the side of a big bowl of chili.