Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Ode to the Perfect Corn Sticks, Skillet Apple Cake, and Clean Water...

 I love the chance discoveries that we make through blogging that connect us to others, both near and far away.  I love reading Hickory Ridge Studio, which I discovered after Lana stumbled onto the LCC and contacted me.  Lana recently posted about cooking in cast iron, and included a recipe for skillet cake, and talked about corn sticks.  I learned to cook in cast iron cookware, and for so many things, it is the perfect cookware.  
Last night, I found the corn stick pan that had belonged to Great-grandmother Timmons, my mother's grandmother.  I had to scrub it well as it has not been used in so many years I cannot even recall it, and then re-season the pan.  Unless you cook with cast iron, or happen to be around my age or older, you might not know "seasoning" the cookware.  It involves rubbing the surface with oil, or as I learned, Crisco shortening, and heating it in the oven in low heat.  That is done prior to first use of cast iron, and may be needed periodically.  That does something to the surface that prevents food from sticking, and keeps rust from forming on the surface of the cookware when it is stored.  There is definitely an art to maintaining it, and is likely not passed on to a lot of younger cooks these days.

Making perfect corn sticks involves some simple, but highly important steps:

  1. make sure the corn stick pan is clean and seasoned; any residue of cornbread left in those tiny little pockets that are the corn "kernels" will not only be unappetizing and unsanitary, it will encourage rust and sticking of the cornbread, neither of which is a good thing;
  2. use Crisco shortening to grease the pan; I know what you are thinking, and with good reason, about shortening, but nothing seasons the pan and prevents sticking as well; must be Crisco (the Pure Vegetable shortening) for the perfect results achieved above;
  3. rub a generous amount of Crisco onto the surface of the corn stick impression, and then place the pan in a hot oven--hot means 450 degrees;
  4. let the shortening melt, which obviously won't take long in a 450 degree oven; be careful, it will smoke if you leave it in there too long;
  5. remove the pan and use a brush to make sure all the sides of the corn mold are thoroughly coated with grease; there should be a small amount (I have no idea how much that is, but it should cover the bottom of the corn stick mold) of the melted shortening in the bottom;
  6. pour the cornbread batter into the mold immediately--the key is that pouring the cold cornbread batter into the very hot cast iron will cause the batter to form a crisp crust, which keeps it from sticking to the mold.
I baked for 15 minutes, and voila! Perfect corn sticks that easily came out of the pan, no sticking, and with the pretty little corn ear design on the bottom.

 Lana's post about the skillet apple cake--especially when she compared it to a Dutch Baby or custard, had me hooked from the get-go.  I forgot to take the photo before I cut it--dad was hungry and could not wait for supper as he had not felt well earlier in the day and had not eaten since breakfast.
 This was the most incredible (and easy, actually) dessert/breakfast food I have ever made.  Both Mom and Dad loved it.  It is more like a pancake (thus, the comparison to the Dutch baby) but definitely has a custard type of texture.  The flavor is like nothing I have ever eaten--I will serve these at my coffeeshop/bookstore/Internet cafe that I open in Byhalia, and that alone will cause me to become famous all over the county.  I will gratefully give credit to Lana and post a large rendering of her blog page on one wall as part of the decor in my quaint little hotspot.
 We had one as an appetizer, and following supper, had one for dessert.  I am hoping there is still a bit left for serving with coffee this morning, but I won't guarantee Dad did not have another snack before he went to bed last night.
After an incredibly beautiful day yesterday, calm with no wind! and sunshine and blue skies, I went out to clean out the water trough.  In the fall and winter, the leaves from the oak trees next to the fence clog it and foul the water.  I got a gallon ice cream bucket from the barn and scooped all of the old water and dumped it across the fence, cleaned out all the leaves on the bottom, and refilled.  Rio stood beside me, watching me the entire time--Jenny of course, keeps her distance and was nowhere near at the time.  She only ventured back over once I was out of the corral and had refilled the water and put out the feed.

In a world where you do not always see results of your work, I still find immense satisfaction in a simple, but extremely important, task like cleaning the water trough.  Now mind you, last night my hip and knee were screaming "What were you thinking?!!??" but Rio was thinking "thank you for taking care of me."  I love that horse.  Jennybelle and I are slowly developing a relationship--she takes a long time to trust--and I am beginning to feel affection for her as well.  Life is good.


Beth said...

I make cornbread (white cornbread) in a 9 inch skillet and heat it prior to adding the mix. Love that cornbread with lots of real butter!

Lana Pugh said...

I'm so glad I could help you on to worldwide acclaim with my simple recipe :). I am tickled that you liked the recipe and you've inspired me to pull out my corn stick pan too. Thanks so much for letting me know you liked the skillet cake!

Suzassippi said...

I just got back home to MS, and as soon as I can move, walking or crawling, to get to the store and get some apples, we are having one here. I might even take it to work--a little good will at work is a good thing!

Thanks for posting the recipe and the description, and let me know how those corn sticks work out!

Gigi said...

Yummy! I never had cornbread till I moved to Texas and had to learn how to season a pan and cook it properly. I've made cornbread and cornbread muffins but never cornsticks, though. Makes me want some chili and cornbread right now!