It's week two of "Breadgate" here at food52, and this second recipe is a real winner, folks. About a decade ago (yikes, has it really been that long?), I found myself working behind the counter of what was then an unassuming but highly respected local bakery in the South End of Boston. Flour was -- and is -- owned and run by a real slacker of a woman; Joanne Chang graduated from Harvard with a degree in Applied Math and Economics and then left her job as a management consultant to train as a pastry chef before opening her own bakery -- she also runs marathons and is an accomplished pianist, a gracious boss, and effortlessly gorgeous to boot. Sigh.
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But I digress.
What was then a small neighborhood spot is now part of a burgeoning empire. In the past several years, Joanne has launched two more Flour locations in Boston and Cambridge, and in 2007 she opened a Chinese Restaurant, called Myers + Chang, with her husband. This fall, she published her first cookbook, Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe. In it, she shares the recipes for many of the pastries and breads I remember fondly from my days at Flour. My all-time favorite item (which turns out to be Joanne's favorite too, as I learned from the book), a chewy, seedy multigrain bread, is, alas, a yeast bread and would most likely test my limited bread skills -- not to mention my patience (I'll just have to get my fix every time I make it back to Boston). However, another bread I remembered well, cornbread with whole corn kernels and fresh thyme, fits the bill for this series perfectly.
Joanne's cornbread is tender and faintly sweet from a touch of brown sugar, and the thyme makes it smell absolutely incredible as it's baking. And the batter comes together in under ten minutes. That's my kind of bread recipe. Oh, and did I mention it calls for crème fraiche?
1/4 cup (56 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup (50 grams) canola oil
1/4 cup (55 grams) packed light brown sugar
1 cup (240 grams) milk
3/4 cup (180 grams) crème fraiche
1 cup (160 grams) fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
2. In a a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, oil and brown sugar until a thick slurry forms. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, and then whisk in the milk and creme fraiche.
3. Pour the egg-sugar mixture into the cornmeal mixture, and then, using a rubber spatula, fold together until all of the cornmeal is completely incorporated. Fold in the corn kernels and the thyme until they are evenly distributed throughout the batter. The batter will be thick and pasty. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.
4. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the top is light golden brown and the center springs back when you poke it in the middle with a fingertip. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, then cut into about 12 serving pieces.
5. The corn bread can be stored, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. If frozen, thaw at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours and refresh in a 300-degree-F over for 8 minutes, or refresh, directly from the freezer, in a 300-degree-F over for 15 to 18 minutes.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).