The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Cornbread Basics

MacInAction's picture

Cornbread Basics

I see that some recipes call for baking powder, and others use baking soda for leavening. Some use both. What is appropriate for buttermilk cornbread and why? I assume that PH is a factor in choosing the correct combination of ingredients.

Floydm's picture

Yeah, I think that because buttermilk is acidic you could use baking soda or some baking soda and some baking powder with it rather than just baking powder as you would for a normal cornbread recipe. 

MacInAction's picture

I have not read much of the book yet, but I was surprized to see that Peter put this one in there. He called for 1 1/2 tbsp of powder and 1/4 tsp of soda in a recipe that uses two cups of buttermilk.

I'll probably scrap the idea of tweaking my recipe and use his instead to achieve the "wow factor" that I have been looking for. I tried and failed with polenta during my experiments, but I now see that I wasn't using it correctly (not soaking it). The picture looks great with the whole corn inside and crispy BACON on top!

Nickisafoodie's picture

I also use both as you mention with good results.  Another tip: I also find that letting the full mixture sit on the countertop for a few hours allows the grain to more fully absorb the liquids, resulting in a lighter fluffier muffin, more cake like than course type granular meal.  It may stiffen up a bit, simply add a touch more buttermilk than usual.  Even overnight in the fridge w bowl covered in plastic wrap, then right into muffin cups and bake.  this technique works expecially well for bran muffins too!  happy baking!

Antilope's picture

According to Cook's Illustrated, baking soda also promotes browning, which also enhances flavor.

golfermd's picture

I use variations on Tyler Florence's scones. He uses baking powder exclusively as the leavening agent. I used buttermilk once in a scone recipe with the baking powder. The results were quite bizarre for texture! I never tried to use baking soda instead.



Buster1948's picture

Ca. 1955-1962 in a small central Alabama town, I knew a family of several children and a hardworking mother of slender means. The sole son was my best friend, so I had many occasions to be at their home. Because the mom worked in a shirt factory, the older girls baked what they referred to simply as "bread", almost every afternoon and it was served with whatever they had for supper. I watched the girls make it a few times (when ca. ages 8 to 12), but never noted the exact ingredients, much less proportions. I do remember that they used a blend of cornmeal and flour (probably self-rising, I suspect), maybe milk, possibly water, and an egg or two. One specific memory is that they would heat a cast iron pan, pour the mixture into the hot pan and then gently pour a spiral pattern of oil or melted bacon grease from the center outward. They did not slice it, but broke off hunks as it was passed around the table. I loved it, despite the fact that it violated every norm, especially, it would seem, the norms of the norming members of this forum. It was too heavy (as in bricks), too greasy, sort of gummy, and often inconsistent in texture from one side to the other, but it had a wonderfully tart taste and crisp crust, and was the perfect tool for sopping pot liquor. However, the mother and son are dead, and the sisters have scattered to other places where they or their husbands could make a living. The ones I have run into over the years at funerals and weddings have either forgotten the "bread" or blotted it out of their newly affluent memories.  If this rings any bells, I would be grateful for your non-cardiological input. Thanks, Buster