Does’t that just sound like the food version of cuddling on the couch in front of a fire? Warm custard spoon bread. Every word there is like a friendly little squeeze. Every word there says to me, “I am unbelievably amazingly delicious and decadent. You should probably drop everything and make me right now.”
I don’t know why but I am an absolute sucker for foods that have the word spoon in their title. (I am a sucker for warm, custard, and bread as well. But, those are more standard enticements than you’d expect an eating utensil to be.) It’s like a short hand for something being so ooey gooey, soft, and tender that you have to eat it with a spoon. Like Nutella right from the jar.
I have been actively yearning for this dish for a year now. At least I have whenever it has been brought to my attention. Then, as with most other things that are actually important to me to remember (as opposed to random facts and other people’s schedules which stick in my mind with remarkable fortitude), I promptly forget about it as soon as I am not looking at the recipe. I don’t know why this happens, but I know I’m not the only one who does this. I’ve heard from all sorts of people that it can somehow take months or years for them to get around to making a dish that they desperately wanted to try upon seeing it.
Maybe it’s a built in mechanism to allow us the great pleasure afforded by deferred gratification. Maybe people did experiments on us when we were little, telling us not to eat the marshmallow in front of us, and this is the strategy we developed to succeed. Most likely we’re just scatterbrained by virtue of the way the information stimuli in our society are fed to us.
Anyway, moral of the story is, I saw this spoon bread and I knew immediately I had to make it, and then proceeded to take a year before I got to it. But, now I have made it, and every positive assumption and association I had with the word spoon in this context has been confirmed. And how!
Simplicity meets decadence and their offspring is this spoon bread. Perfect for a lazy weekend or holiday brunch.
According to localsavour, whose recipe this is, this is loosely based on jonnycakes. Okay. I can see that it has the cornmeal of jonnycakes, but truly it is an entirely different species of breakfast.
You blend together flour and cornmeal with some soured milk, butter, and egg to make a simple cornbread like batter. There is no sugar, only vanilla for a mildly sweet edge. You also add in a surprising amount of nutmeg. Seriously. Like the quantity of nutmeg you would normally only add by accident because you had been dare-devilishly measuring right above the mixing bowl and accidentally missed your spoon. Not that that ever happens to any of us, of course.
But don’t fear it. This dose of nutmeg turns out to be sheer genius. Its spicy, almost sharp fragrance suffuses the spoon bread with a sweet peppery flavor that is wonderful with the subtle nuttiness of the cornmeal. Another little piece of genius is the cream. Rather than whisking it into the mix, you pour it in over the batter that has been spread in the pan, after you have already placed the baking dish in the oven. Then, you carefully shut the oven door and wait.
When it comes out what you have is a marvel. The batter has separated into striations. In between layers of tender, fluffy cornbread (really more like cake with some essence of corn – cake with a Texan twang, perhaps) a layer of creamy, rich custard has appeared. This little detail, this delicate dairy layer, is like the stuffing of a sandwich cookie. It takes the outsides, which are delicious in themselves, and somehow by providing a contrasting element, pulls them together into something divine.
Spoon (of course) deliciously jumbled heaps of the piping hot custardy bread onto breakfast plates, then drizzle with a thin stream of dark maple syrup. A side of bacon wouldn’t hurt either. Oh, and, if for some reason you feel that a rich cakey cornbread filled with rich custard cream isn’t quite, you know, rich enough, you could consider making some browned butter, adding a little spoonful each of finely minced sage and lemon zest, and drizzling with this as well. (It’s how the great Rene Redzepi of Noma served some corn flapjacks. The combination has the famous-genius stamp of approval. Who was I to refuse?!)
Now, eat your breakfast. Please, do not wait a year to try it. Please.
Warm Custard Spoon Bread (serves 6-8 ) (adapted ever so minutely from food52)
- 1 cup flour
- 3/4 cups stone ground corn meal
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter + 2 teaspoons
- 1 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Put an 8X8 inch square baking dish into the oven to heat up.
- Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in a small bowl. Stir well to blend.
- In another bowl, whisk together the egg and the milk. Add the vinegar and allow to stand for a couple of minutes. Then, whisk in the melted butter and vanilla as well.
- Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until they are fully combined and there are no lumps.
- Take your baking pan out of the oven and add the remaining 2 tsp. of butter to it. Swirl and turn the pan to get it coated with the rapidly melting butter. Then, scrape the batter into the pan.
- Put the baking pan into the oven, then gently pour the heavy cream over it (yes, while it’s in the oven). Do not stir.
- Bake for about 45-50 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a tester inserted into the bread comes out basically clean. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for ten minutes before serving.
- Serve with maple syrup and/or lemon-sage brown butter for drizzling over the bread. Lounge over this with your coffee for a while
Lemon-sage Brown Butter (adapted from a recipe in Food & Wine, January 2012)
- 6 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp. minced sage
- Put the butter in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it has turned brown and smells nutty, about 7 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and sage.
- All to cool to room temperature (or chill a bit) before serving. Stir well before serving.