There are certain kitchen secrets, here and there, that are passed down from generation to generation...how to make biscuits or perfect meringue, baking bread or selecting a perfectly ripe piece of fruit at the market. Little tidbits of information here and there that add a unique flavor to each cook's dishes, so that you can almost trace a pedigree by tasting a red sauce or slicing up a loaf of quickbread.
I was taught to cook by my mother, my grandmother, several aunts, and a few other miscellaneous sorts along the way, but it was my mother and grandmother who transmitted their 'secrets' to me most effectively. One of these secrets, passed down since god-knows-when, was the secret for perfect cornbread. Its so simple...just one ingredient, but I can hardly stomach a piece of cornbread without it. Why? Well, because for all of it's delicious simplicity, cornbread has a few terrible faults. Perhaps the first that comes to mind is how terribly, terribly dry it can be. There's no pleasure at all in a cornbread that crumbles like ash in your mouth!
However, the secret ingredient passed down through the cooks in my family eliminated this unpleasant attribute, while simultaneously providing just a touch of sweetness. It goes equally well smothered in chili or beans as it does slathered with butter and honey, but I always preferred the latter. Fresh, hot cornbread is something I remember quite fondly from my childhood...and luckily enough, corn flour is a whole grain! (Just make sure the ingredient's list doesn't say "degerminated"). For this whole grain version of cornbread, I used white whole wheat flour and finely ground cornmeal...and of course, the secret ingredient: one finely grated carrot.
Whole Grain Corn Bread
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup fine-ground cornmeal
1/2 t salt
4 t baking powder
1 carrot, finely grated
1 T honey
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter (softened/room temperature)
1. Preheat oven to 425, grease baking dish. (We used a deep-dish pie dish that we've used for cornbread since forever, more or less. You can bake yours in a square though, 8x8 works well!)
2. Combine all dry ingredients and then sift together into a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat just until smooth. (Don't get too overzealous on this step!)
3. Bake for 25 minutes or until done.
Simple, but absolutely delicious! This cornbread is perfect as an accompaniment to all sorts of dishes, but we had it with baked beans...recipe to come!
-The Calm Cook