With her Rube Goldberg machine complete, The Child has two more weeks of school left. Her evenings are focused on projects for other classes, and she will spend a day in a study session at with a group of her friends. One mom hosts this event each trimester, and everyone contributes some sort of snack. This time, it’s on a Saturday morning, so everyone is bringing breakfast food, mostly of the unnervingly nutritious variety. I ask The Child what I should bring, and she asks if I can pick up some mix and make corn bread.
I often do keep cornbread mix in my house, because either a) Thanksgiving is coming and I am using it in my stuffing or b) The Child has requested it and plans to make it herself. It’s not like I don’t have dozens of cornbread recipes I could use, which I tell her, saying, sure, I’ll make some cornbread for you.
I hunt through a few of my cookbooks and realize that although a have a lot of cornbread recipes, I’ve only ever made one of them: a recipe for buttermilk cornbread that I used in my Thanksgiving stuffing until I discovered that Trader Joe’s mix works just as well (I know – heresy). I finally settle on a recipe for Johnnycake from Metropolitan Cook Book, a 1948 booklet distributed by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. It’s not big – only 56 pages – but it does manage to cover a lot of basic recipes (scrambled eggs, meat loaf), as well as a few things I don’t think I’ve even seen on a menu (liver-stuffed green peppers, prune souffle), and provide a lot of basic cooking tips and tables as well.
The resulting Johnnycake was not quite what I expected. I think of cornbread as a very light, sweet cake-type bread that crumbles easily and is is fairly thick. This bread, though, rose to barely a half-inch high, remaining very dense and with a crisp exterior – and not sweet at all. It has an almost chewy texture – it’s not hard to picture a pioneer eating a piece in front of his covered wagon.
It is hard, though, to picture teenage girls eating it in much quantity, and in fact plenty of it returned home after the study session was over. I had a piece with a bit of butter and honey, which was really nice for snacking on, since it didn’t crumble apart and make a mess the way cornbread generally does. It occurred to me that this cornbread would be a really nice accompaniment for chili or ribs – it would be great for dabbing up leftover sauce, since it holds together fairly well. I suspect the batter would work really well as corn sticks, if I had a corn stick pan.
I probably won’t make this again to be served by itself – but I do think next time I make chili, there will be a bit of Johnnycake on the side.
- 1 cup cornmeal
- ¼ cup flour
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup milk
- 4 tbsp butter or shortening, melted
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch baking pan.
- Mix dry ingredients and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, beat eggs with milk. Stir into the dry ingredients.
- Stir in melted butter (or shortening).
- Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a rack. Cut into 12-16 pieces.