Skillet Corn Bread with Fresh Cut Corn and Bacon
adapted slightly from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
1 cup coarse cornmeal or polenta
2 cups buttermilk
8 ounces bacon (approximately 10 thin slices)
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or unbleached all purpose flour or a combination)
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup whole cane sugar or sucanat (or brown sugar, white sugar, or a combination)
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (cut from approximately 3 fresh ears of corn)
2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat
special equipment: 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet (alternatively, you can use a 10-inch round cake pan, a 9 x 13-inch baking pan, or a 12-inch square pan)
1. The night before baking the corn bread (or at least 8 hours before baking), soak the cornmeal in the buttermilk. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight or until ready to make the cornbread.
2. To prepare the bacon, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay out the bacon on two sheet pans. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until bacon is crisp. Using tongs or a fork, remove the pieces to a pan lined with paper towels to cool. Drain off the fat into a can or stainless steel bowl and save for greasing the corn bread pan. When the bacon has cooled, crumble it into coarse pieces.
3. Lower the oven setting to 350 degrees. Pour 2 tablespoons of bacon fat into a 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet and place the skillet in the oven to preheat while you prepare the corn bread batter.
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl; set aside. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Dissolve the honey into the melted butter and then stir the warm honey-butter mixture into the eggs. Add this to the soaked cornmeal mixture along with the whole cane sugar and stir to combine. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a large spoon or whisk until the batter is blended and smooth – it should be the consistency of thick pancake batter. Stir in the corn kernels until they are evenly distributed.
5. With good pot holders or oven mitts, carefully remove the hot cast iron skillet or baking pan from the oven and tilt it to grease all the corners and sides. Pour in the batter, spreading it from the center of the pan to the edges. Sprinkle the crumbled bacon pieces evenly over the top.
6. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the corn bread is firm and springy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top will be a medium golden brown. If using the 12-inch skillet, the baking time will be about 30 minutes, but if you use a smaller pan, the baking times will be longer, perhaps 40 – 45 minutes. Keep checking until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
7. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before cutting into squares or wedges. Serve warm.