Baking a bread every week can teach you many things.
This week, making cornbread for the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge reminded me of yet another thing that’s applicable to life in general: Get enough sleep.
I’d started this week’s bread thinking it’d be a breeze — I’ve made cornbread many times before, after all. Mike is a great lover of cornbread — some of his
fondest memories of his Iowa childhood kitchen involve pouring syrup over
cornbread for a hearty breakfast.
So this bread doesn’t just surface in our household for Thanksgiving dinners — it’s been known to appear whenever the faintest urge strikes.
Author Peter Reinhart’s cornbread, however, turned out to be a little more involved than the versions I usually make.
For starters, it’s a two-day process. On day one, I soaked a bunch of coarse cornmeal in buttermilk and left it out overnight at room temperature.
The next day, things did not begin well.
Having stayed up way too late the night before for an impromptu True Blood marathon, I was having a minor problem with my eyes. They were doing this thing where they just would not stay open.
Oh, and my head, too — that seemed to be having a difficult time processing stuff. Like, words. And also making those words become actions. That kind of thing.
Nonetheless, I’d made cornbread many times before — I could practically make it in my sleep!
So this little thing about actually being half-asleep? Not a problem.
I forged ahead, baking several strips of bacon, letting them cool and then crumbling them up, reserving the bacon grease.
Next, I mixed together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda, sugar and brown sugar.
Then I beat some eggs, dissolve honey in melted butter and mixed them altogether with the cornmeal-buttermilk combo.
Now, I’m a complete amateur when it comes to serious bread-baking. Unlike the hardcore bakers whose lovely breads regularly appear on bread porn sites like Yeastspotting, anything with kneading, braiding or requiring doughs to rise still
scares the bejesus out of me.
But with cornbread, there was none of that complicated stuff. I was humming to myself as I coasted on a cloud of confidence.
As I brushed the cake pan with bacon grease and poured the dough into it, sprinkling the top with bacon bits, I even paused to take pictures to share with my fellow bakers on Twitter.
It was around this time that I noticed something amiss.
BBA baker Chris at Eating
Is The Hard Part had noted that he’d forgotten to buy corn at the store
so he couldn’t make cornbread that day.
Right. That would be the bag of forgotten corn sitting in my freezer.
Images of my colossal ciabatta failure flashed before me.
(On the upside, I was now fully awake.)
But the dough was in the pan; the bacon had been beautifully sprinkled. There was no turning back.
So, into the oven it went and a short while later, it came out looking just lovely.
The bread tasted delicious — and you really didn’t notice the lack of corn.
(It’s especially not noticeable after you’ve dumped scads of maple syrup on the cornbread.)
Despite its marquee billing, the corn really wasn’t the star of this show, it turned out.
As my fellow BBA baker Haley pointed out, “It will still be good. … Just as long as you’ve got the bacon.”