Friday, December 19, 2008

Cornbread: With Russian Ingredients (Part 2)

Welcome back Kitchen Friends. In Part I we prepped our dry ingredients and now let's move on to our liquid ingredients. Here is the cast of characters:

As you see from the left, we have our milk, vinegar, oil, canned corn and eggs.

Starting with the milk, we need regular milk and we need buttermilk. You know how to make buttermilk, right? Just add a bit of vinegar to the regular milk. I'm thinking 1-2 teaspoons per cup of milk.

Canned corn, imagine - corn in cornbread. But it is extra special. Let 'er sit there a minute while the liquid drains off.

So, get the liquid ingredients all lined up: our milk - now combined after the vinegar did it's curdling on the milk, our eggs - cracked and stirred up and our oil.

Why not combine all the liquid ingredients except for the corn. Kind of interesting there. The design this makes. As you would know, things need to happen fast after we combine the dry and liquid ingredients. So between now and then, there's some business we need to take care of: the baking pan, for one thing.

Oil the baking pan. I brought this from the US. Nice, eh? It's a 9 by 13-inch pan as I recall and we're using that size because we're making a double batch of cornbread.

After oiling the pan, a culinary purist would dust the baking pan with corn meal. Okay, okay. . . since there's comp'ny watching here, we'll be purists. Just for today.

Next order of business: Persuade the oven to light and stay fired up. If only it were so easy. This oven and I understand each other. It's from Brest (Belarus) - see, it says so there on the left in the red script. And maybe that explains why this oven is capricious. The Russian version of the word capricious is used a lot, especially describing strong-willed children. But ovens can also be capricious, seems to me.

So the 2nd knob from the left is the temperature. It goes from 0 to 9. We need to keep it fired up all the way to 9 for about 15 minutes. Or else the flame will poof out.

Time out to check our dry ingredients. Yep, got the dry stuff altogether in a big pan.

Back to the oven, besides keeping it up at 9, the door needs to be ajar for about 15 minutes too. Must have something to do with oxygen. See the oven thermometer inside there? That's my buddy. He tells me what's going on inside that oven and we speak the same language: We both understand degrees Farenheit.

Thing is this oven is allows me no shortcuts, it's kind of strict that way. After about 5-8 minutes of oven on, I tried turning the temp down to 4.5, where we will be doing our baking. Out went the flame. I tried closing the door. Out went the flame. Re-lighted (re-lit?) this oven 5 times, I'm serious. See, the oven rules. And the oven is capricious. Okay oven, enjoy it because when we're done with you, it's all over, Rover. Understand? You get your hour of being the boss and then your out, o-u-t Out. You just wait, Mr Oven.

So, add the liquid ingredients to the dry, not visa versa. Mix carefully only until the dry ingredients are all moistened. You know quick breads, that is - those breads leavened with baking powder and/or baking soda versus yeast - are fairly fragile. They don't need to be handled and mixed and played with ad infinitum. Get those dry ingredients moistened and move right along. Over-handling will result in tunnels and who needs tunnels in their bread? I'd rate tunnels right in there with trauma, turmoil and flies, something to avoid.

You know a person really shouldn't eat batter, right? Because for one thing, uncooked eggs are a source of salmonella food poisoning. And that can be quite dangerous for the elderly, for children or for those with fragile immune systems. Good news: I decided years ago that none of that applies to us (shhhh, it's our secret). So we're going to taste. Oh does this taste odd. I mean absolutely floury. And I realized, that in my excitement and all, one critical ingredient got left on the sidelines. . .

Oh sugar, our sweet precious sugar. Just waiting to be noticed and added to the mixture. But you know what this means. It means more handling of the dough. And it means we'll have tunnels. that means that our cornbread will probably not win the blue ribbon at the state fair. Oh well. Just have to wait and see. Pretty confident that it will not become dangerous. It will not explode in the oven or any such thing.

So here's our dough in the pan, ready to get spread out.

And here we go, en route to the baking chamber. . .

There she goes. Thermometer shows to be 350-ish. That's what we want. This is a typical Soviet oven. One wire rack. And one other shelf, which is solid metal, above here. So we set our timer for 45 minutes and go take a little rest. Oh, but first, let's get another spoonful of that batter. Oh boy is that yummy!

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