I’ve fallen in love hard. I do that with cookbooks. This one I’ve coveted for quite a while, but only just received. I’ve read through it a couple of times already, devouring the images while I lie beside a napping Oliver, daydreaming their smells in my kitchen. Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain: Baking with Wholegrain Flours delivers what’s been missing from my bookshelves for quite a few years. Ever since I brought home coconut flour and tried to substitute it into an anzac biscuit with dire consequences. And then there was that bag of freshly milled millet flour from Robin Curtis. Rob sent it to me to experiment with and I’d to-ed and fro-ed so long about what to do with it that it got weavels. (I’m so sorry Rob. I have a little sense of how much work goes into every bag of grain you produce and you deserve so much better than that.)
Basically I’m viewing this book as the answer to all my wholegrain failures. And like all good love affairs, we’ll have to test the ground, roll out some real life experiences to see if the relationship will hold, but right now, smelling the polenta bread in my oven, I’ve got a good feeling about us.
One issue: Kim says something in passing on page 20 and it’s been driving me nuts: “Also, pay attention to the measuring cups in your kitchen. There is a difference between a liquid measuring cup (for dairy, honey, or molasses) and a dry measuring cup (for flour and sugar), so be sure to use the right one.” Is this really true? She doesn’t go on to explain whether this equates to differences in milliliters or not, but it does sound like this is a difference she is applying in her recipes. It’s got me fussing over my cup measurements something crazy because I’ve never noticed the difference! and now I’m fretting that maybe my cornbread might end up dry because of it. Help me if you know more than I do?
I’ve made a few changes to Kim’s Honey Polenta Cornbread (just because I’m in love doesn’t mean I’ll pedestallize), some intended and some accidental: I’m adding rosemary (because, frankly, with this combination of flavours, I couldn’t help myself); using wholemeal flour instead of graham flour (because I haven’t been able to find any in Australia. If anyone knows of a source please let me know. It’s a much more roughly milled wholemeal flour that would add lovely crunches and chews to this bread); using Murray River Salt instead of kosher salt (because again, no can find); using blackstrap molasses against Kim’s recommendations (because it’s all I had on the shelf); and using salted butter (because my favourite local butter happens to be salted and I hardly ever find that I over salt things just because I add salted butter).
Oh, and Kim uses an extra ¼ cup sugar in the bread and I didn’t include this because I forgot to. Now I’ve tasted the result and I wouldn’t bother adding it. I think I’m finding that American cooks, in particular, like breads sweeter than I do.
The bread’s really good. Dark brown in colour, which is surprising because it still has the crunch of the golden coloured cornbread we’re all used too. The taste is gentle and deep, as well as softer in texture than other cornbreads I’ve made. It would be lovely with homemade baked beans that have plenty of fresh herbs mixed in at the end to lift them up to the level I imagine this cornbread expects of it’s accompaniments. But I’ll have to wait until next time to try this out because I’ve just about finished this bread off with nothing more than a toasting and some of my favourite butter.
Honey and Rosemary Cornbread
- 1 cup coarse polenta
- ¼ tsp Murray River salt (or any sea salt)
- 1 ½ cups wholemeal flour
- 1 cup millet flour
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp Murray River salt
- 4 ounces butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup molasses (blackstrap or not is fine)
- 3 eggs
- Approx. 2 tbsp butter
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ tsp Murray River Salt
- 1-2 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat your oven to 180C and position a rack in the middle. Butter and line a 2 ½ to 4 litre baking pan (mine was on the large side, which might account for the shortened cooking time, but did mean that the bread was just the right thickness for slicing and popping in the toaster).
Make the polenta first: bring 3 cups water to simmer and add the polenta and 1/4 tsp salt in a steady stream while you whisk vigorously, long enough for the grains to begin to swell. This will stop them sticking together and will allow you to put a lid on the post and revisit it with a wooden spoon less frequently. Although, don’t step too far away because this is a very thick polenta and will stick to the base of your pan really fast if you let it. Actually, if you can be bothered, stay only a few steps away and stir every minute or so, for a full ten, when the polenta should be very thick and on its way to cooked. Take it off the heat, scoop out a cupful into a medium size bowl and immediately add the 4 ounces of butter. Stir this in- it won’t all take that easily, but you’ll end up with a slightly looser, shiny mud. Now add the milk, 1/4 cup honey, molasses and 3 eggs and whisk them in until you have a consistent liquid. Set the rest of the polenta aside for another use.
While the polenta is cooking, make the glaze by heating the 2 tbsp butter, 1/4 cup honey, rosemary and 1/4 tsp salt together in a small saucepan until melted and foamy.
Now, sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl, and if there are any bits left in the sieve, just stir them into the mix after. Make sure any clumps of baking soda are broken up with your fingers before they disappear into the flour.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour all the wet mixture into the centre. Using a spatula (or wooden spoon if you don’t have one), stir and fold the two mixtures together until they are just combined. Use expansive strokes until most of the mixture is combined, and then more targeted scoops and folds where you see remaining floury bits. ‘Just combined’ means mix just until all the floury bits are gone and no more. Be judicious.
Pour out half of this batter into the baking pan and spread it with the spatula to cover the whole base. Drizzle around a third of the honey glaze over the top and swirl it to cover most of the surface of the batter, without causing it to lose its sovereignty. Now top this layer off with the rest of the batter and again, spread it over the glaze without too much combining. Drizzle another third of the glaze over this again and place the pan in the oven.
Bake for 20 minutes, before turning the pan 180degrees and bake for a further 15 minutes. Check the bread at this stage- if it’s unstuck itself from the edges of the pan and a knife poked into its centre comes out clean, it’s done. If not, put it back in the oven and keep cooking it and testing it every 5 or so minutes until it’s done. Take the pan fully out of the oven to test it, so that the oven door is open for the least amount of time possible.
Once the bread’s cooling on your benchtop, put the remaining glaze back on the stove just to melt it again and then brush it (or drizzle it with a spoon, if you don’t have a brush) over the top of the bread. Cool in the pan, and eat warm, room temperature, or toasted. To store, wrap it tightly with cling wrap and keep it in the fridge if you have hot weather like ours. I’ve frozen half of my bread and I’ll let you know how that goes.