Friday, September 18, 2009

LiveSTRONG with a Taste of...Corn: Bacon Cornbread {bba}

A couple of days ago my baking friend Di, of the blog Di's Kitchen Notebook, had a lovely post. She baked beautiful - and delicious looking - intensely yellow lemon bars, and posted them as a tribute to her first husband, in connection with of the LiveSTRONG with a Taste of Yellow food blogging event dedicated to cancer awareness (in support of Lance Armstrong's LiveSTRONG Foundation). I was touched and inspired by Di's story, and when I realized that I had just that day baked some very yellow cornbread I decided to join in the event also (the main requirement is to prepare a food or drink with a yellow ingredient and write a blog post featuring it).

Hardly a day passes when I'm not touched by cancer in ways big or small, and I'm sure that's true of the vast majority of you all too. Friends, neighbors, acquaintances, relatives, strangers in the news tell their stories . This illness strikes every manner of folk, and like ripples from a stone cast into a pond, the effects of the disease spread, affecting not just the patients but those around them, their medical providers, and their care givers.

The person who I'd like to honor with this post - this bread! - is my father Joe, who died from the effects of a brain tumor on January 2, 2007. He was smart, funny, stubborn, reserved, and generous. He made his living in computers, almost from the day that they were invented, and after he retired Dad always stayed techologically current; until the day he died at age 80 he'd sit at his computer conducting his business affairs and Googling anything that came his way. In his retirement he became a used book dealer, and so many of my treasured cookbooks (and many many other books) came from him.

My dad died before I became a food blogger, but I know he'd be tickled by my two blogs, and being a fan of all things delicious, he'd love reading about - and tasting as often as possible - the food I cook and bake in my kitchen. He loved meat, and he loved bread, and I have a very strong feeling that he'd have loved this bacon cornbread! And I have to say that every time I think about how my father would have enjoyed this bread, I really, really wish he were here to taste some (it's tucked snugly in my freezer).

the bread:

I baked Peter Reinhart's Bacon Cornbread because it is the next bread in our A-Z progression through his wonderful book The Bread Baker's Apprentice. It is the one and only quick bread in the entire book; Reinhart says he had to include it because it is so perfect.

There are many people who hold very passionate - and quite differing - opinions about how cornbread should taste. The short rundown is that, in the US, Northerners tend to like sweet cornbread, and Southerners, who have a penchant for making everything in the kitchen just a little sweeter, actually like "unsweet" cornbread. (Go figure!) I've lived in both regions and eaten - and baked - plenty of cornbread, and I'll enjoy any cornbread that isn't dry and isn't toothachingly sugary.

I read lots of advance reports from the BBA Challenge participants raving about this bread, so I was hopeful that we'd enjoy it also.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- My original plan was to skip the whole corn kernels that are in the recipe, and to make bacon-topped muffins (which Reinhart gives as a variation).

- After some back-and-forth with a few of my baking friends, I decided to make some kernel-less muffins and bake the rest of the batter, including the fresh corn, in a small cast iron skillet. I cut some fresh corn off the cob and set it aside. (You can guess what happened, right?)

- The recipe specifies "polenta" style coarse ground cornmeal. I didn't have any, but did have a ton of other cornmeal. Rather than buy special cornmeal, I used 2 different kinds of cornmeal and threw in some stone ground grits for good measure.

- I used used maple syrup in place of honey.

- My bacon was Broadbent black pepper bacon.

- Reinhart says to fill the muffin cups full, but I found they were too full, and they rose + spread more than I wanted. The only way I got them out of the pan was because it was silicone.

- I preheated my iron skillet in the hot oven. Then I poured in bacon grease, added the batter, studded the top with bacon and popped it in the oven. At which point I discovered the bowl of corn kernels. I pulled it back out and tried to tuck some in and around the bacon, as I watched the hot iron skillet begin to bake the batter before my eyes. I didn't get much added before putting it back in the oven.

- The cornbread in the iron skillet popped right out of the pan. I let it cool, then wrapped it tightly and froze it whole.

the verdict:

My husband, who doesn't usually care one way or the other about cornbread, said, "this is da#n good!" I had been concerned about the amount of sugar and other sweeteners in the batter, but the finished bread was moist, savory, a touch sweet (but thankfully not sugary) The crumb was sturdy and tender.

The more I think about it, the more I think it was a perfect tribute to my Dad.

{Note: Those of us in the Slow & Steady subgroup of the BBA Challenge are trying to post our breads every two weeks. I was a week or so late with my Cinnamon Raisin Bread and am actually a few days early with this Cornbread, but I wanted to meet the LiveSTRONG With a Taste of Yellow deadline. I will be posting the Cinnamon Raisin Bread roundup in a few days and the Cornbread roundup in late September.}


natalia said...

Dear Nancy, I read about your father feeling very close to you, it's so sad to realize our dear fellows are not here to enjoy even small things with us ! My father died from a heart attack 17 years ago and I often wish I could still share something with him !
I still didn't bake the bread but after such a beautiful post I'll start it right away !! Hugs

Jennifer said...

What a wonderful post and recipe.:) Thanks for sharing your story with us!!!!

Audrey said...

Oh, Nancy, lovely bread and lovely tribute! Your dad sounds a lot like my dad.

Jessica said...

This post is such a lovely and touching tribute to your dad. Thank you for sharing your fond memories of him, and I'm glad he would've liked this cornbread. What a wonderful post for LiveSTRONG.
The pepper bacon sounds absolutely delicious. I loved this cornbread, too.

TeaLady said...

How lucky to have had your Dad as long as you did. So many lose them too early.

Your cornbread came out beautifully. Like that you made the muffins and the round form.

It was pretty good. We liked it, but next time - no bacon. It seemed to detract from the overall taste.

Barbara said...

Nancy how lovely to hear your father's story. Thank you for supporting A Taste Of Yellow.

Leslie said...

What a beautiful post! I'm certain your dad would have been proud of you and thrilled to share in your baking bounties.

I always feel like it's a miracle when I get all of the ingredients in the pan!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

They look yummy, we loved them too.
Such a touching post.

Engineer Baker said...

Not to take things lightly or anything, but doesn't bacon make everything better, including tributes to those you love? :) Seriously though, it's a wonderful tribute, and a gorgeous cornbread.

Di said...

Lovely post, Nancy. I'm glad that you were able to participate in the LiveSTRONG event after all. I'm sure your dad would have loved the cornbread. And I'm glad that yours turned out a lot better than mine did. =)

Sweet and Savory said...

A beautiful tribute to your Dad. You brought him a bit to life by what you wrote.

I like that you made your cornbread in that wonderful skillet. I just got two cast iron skillets (a month ago) and love the versatility of them. Of course, the big one is heavy, especially when full.