Oops! Cornmeal Confusion

I was expecting guests last week and decided to make a Southern Living recipe that I cut from a back issue for Blackberry Cornbread Muffins.  I thought they’d make a tasty accompaniment to omelettes for brunch.

Oh white self-rising corn meal! Where were you when I needed you?

Now, I’m not from the South, and didn’t grown up making cornbread from scratch (if we ever made it, we used the Jiffy mix) so I am not familiar with corn meal, corn flour, etc.

The recipe called for 2 cups of self-rising white cornmeal.  We couldn’t find self-rising, so we looked up a substitution – adding baking powder and salt yourself.  No big deal, I thought.

We also couldn’t find white cornmeal, so we bought yellow.  Oops!  I didn’t bother to research the difference, thinking maybe it was like white v. yellow cheddar.  Same consistency, just a slightly different taste.

So I went ahead with the yellow cornmeal, adding the 1 ½ tsp baking powder and ½ tsp salt that makes it self-rising.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t serve the muffins.  They were too gritty and heavy.  They lacked any sort of fluffiness that you’d expect from a muffin.  Aside from the cornmeal confusion, they also weren’t sweet.  The sugar didn’t overcome the natural tartness of the blackberries.  Needless to say, they didn’t get their picture taken!

I’ve now done a fair bit of reading about cornmeal, and I won’t make that mistake again!

The Saga of Making a “Better Nutter”

Belated Happy New Year!  Though I haven’t posted, I have been busy in the kitchen trying out recipes from some of the great new cookbooks I

A Better Nutter

A Better Nutter

received over the holidays.

On Monday, while watching the Inauguration on TV, I enlisted three friends to try making “Better Nutters” from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook.  Ten hours and four pairs of hands later, we had 10 majestic peanut butter sandwich cookies.

Let me explain.

The Bouchon Bakery cookbook (co-authored by Sebastien Rouxel) is gorgeous, full of great color photos and a ton of recipes.  It’s exactly the kind of cookbook you want to give (or receive!) as a gift.  However, if you are familiar with Thomas Keller, you know he demands a certain kind of culinary perfection that can be difficult for the novice home baker.  For example, he likes precision, preferring that you measure your ingredients in grams on a food scale.

There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but it is new to me.  I’m a baker who throws everything together quickly and figures, well, it is “close enough.”

So why did following Thomas Keller’s recipe for Better Nutters take 10 hours?  Well, I’ll admit that I didn’t have

Piping the peanut butter buttercream onto one half of a cookie sandwich

Piping the peanut butter buttercream onto one half of a cookie sandwich

all of the ingredients on hand.  So there was a trip to the grocery store, plus a stop at a friend’s apartment for a pastry bag and vanilla paste (thanks guys!)

Around the start of the inaugural parade, we toasted the peanuts, assembled the dough, and began refrigerating it.  The cookbook offered an interesting tip for creaming the butter and peanut butter for the dough.  The book recommends holding your KitchenAid mixer bowl above a low flame on the stove to warm the bottom of the bowl.  This really helped the butter break down to a creamy (but not melted) consistency.

Two hours later, when it was time to cut the cookie rounds, the dough was too soft to get more than one cookie round at a time.  Thus, it had to harden in the freezer a bit.  Then the cookie rounds themselves needed to freeze for two hours.  By this time, the inaugural ball was beginning.

We finally got the cookies baked and cooling, and began production of the peanut butter buttercream filling.  I liked using simple syrup, which I had never thought to do in buttercream before, and the filling came out really fluffy.  It would be a great filling between cake layers.

In the end, the cookies were great.  Very buttery, very peanutty, and surprisingly, not that sweet.  I thought they were even better the next day, after they hardened in the fridge. They definitely deserved their spot of honor on the cookbook’s front cover, alongside a very necessary glass of milk.

Will I make them again? Probably not.  But it was definitely a fun experience!