I have noticed that during lockdown here in the UK, a lot of people finding it difficult to get hold of bread, or even the ingredients for making bread – yeast seems to be in particularly short supply. There are some wonderful ways of harvesting wild yeast, but if you aren’t confident enough to try that, how about a cornbread recipe? Cornbread is a little bit different from Hovis, I concede, but it’s delicious (especially warm from the oven, though it also freezes well) and best of all, you don’t need yeast (in fact, you can’t use yeast with corn!).
The history of cornbread reflects the deep cultural divide within black and white communities of the American Deep South. This Brit is making no claims about wading into that complex cultural heritage! But you might want to experiment with this recipe a bit to see which kind of cornbread you want to come out with – something sweet and soft, or something more savoury with a crunchy crust.
Now, you might look at the recipe below and say: “Rachel, how is this lockdown cooking? It’s got lots more ingredients than a basic loaf!” This is true. But in my grocery shops in recent weeks I’ve found it’s definitely not impossible to find food – it’s just that many of what British people consider to be staples are off the shelves. This recipe does not need strong bread flour or yeast, and instead uses cornmeal – if you can’t get that it is absolutely fine (even if it’s inauthentic!) to use polenta. Using polenta instead of fine-milled cornmeal (note: cornmeal, not cornflour – cornflour will not give you a bread at all! Leave it for your gravy!) will give you an interesting crunchy crumb that I have enjoyed in the past.
This recipe is adapted from one I found on Ocado years ago but which is no longer online. You can jazz it up by throwing in grated cheese, jalapenos, spring onions, bacon, ham, sweetcorn – really anything you like. But it is also delicious plain. And my four year old ate some today with a dollop of jam on top, so why not try it for breakfast too.
125g flour – if you have self-raising, omit baking powder; if plain, use baking powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150ml buttermilk – if you can’t get this (though it’s not flying off the shelves!) try plain yoghurt with a squeeze of lemon juice and let it sit for five minutes
150ml milk – any kind is fine, in my experience
2 medium eggs
1 tablespoon of honey or brown sugar – optional
A generous pinch of salt
25g butter – optional – this makes it a little richer but I don’t usually bother
Heat your oven to 220C. Grease either a 1lb loaf tin, or a 9″ square tin, or a deep muffin tray – today this made 9 good-sized muffins. If you don’t have muffin cases, really do grease the heck out of the tray. This mix would probably make a dozen cupcake portions but I wonder if making them that small would dry them out. No harm in trying, though!
Mix all your dry ingredients together. Make a well in the centre and gradually add all the wet ingredients until just mixed together (no need to vigorously beat – it’s fine if it’s lumpy). Pour immediately into the loaf tin or muffin tins – the bicarbonate of soda and buttermilk start reacting so you want to get them in the oven straight away.
A loaf will take approximately 30 min to bake; a square tin 20 minutes; and muffins under 15 – I would check at the 12 minute mark.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy! You can eat these straightaway. They do not keep very well for more than a day or two, so I suggest putting them in the freezer and popping a couple out when you need them.