Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wheat & Walnut Corn Cakes

I love foods that are grainy, and always have. Grains have flavor and texture and talk back to you. They have a personality that you don't get from refined ingredients... perhaps there is some peasant in me after all! There is a restaurant in Chicago, The Dixie Kitchen that plays homage to southern and cajun cooking. Obama liked it when he lived in Chicago, paying special attention to the "bread basket" of home made corn cakes with honey butter. They are delicious and one of my daughter's favorites. So, I decided to experiment with taking them up a notch with a grainier texture and bumping up the flavor. I know that breads, baking, and "cake like" things have a different precision, and perhaps the contrarian in me will not go into that forest of "3/4 cup plus 1 T" measuring nightmare, followed by "2 + 1/8 t." Keeping it simple here with 1 c., 1 T., etc. Today's foray into corn cakes is on the sweeter side, and a more savory version will follow, enjoy my version of:

Wheat & Walnut Corn Cakes
Yield: 12
Preheat griddle to medium flame/heat and lightly spray with canola oil


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup corn meal
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup soy milk**
3/4 cup ff half and half**
1/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

Sift/whisk the first 5 dry ingredients until well blended. Whisk the sugar, eggs, milk, half and half and canola oil until well blended. Combine the wet and dry until just blended. Spoon with a 1/4 - 1/3 cup scoop onto the hot griddle. Sprinkle a few chopped walnuts on each corn cake.

Working with this mixture, you will not see a lot of dry edge or bubbles coming to the surface, you will see a healthy browning on the bottom after about 3-4 minutes, then turn for about 3 minutes on the other side depending upon the height of the flame under the griddle. This "doneness" is a judgment call and can vary. These are so flavorful and I would guess the fiber content a tad higher than their white flour cousins. **I would have used buttermilk, but alas I was out. I don't often cook with soy milk, but it did a credible job with a little boost from the ff half and half.

The Contrarian In Me - What Works & Doesn't Work

There's no doubt about it, I am a foodie, have been one since the day I baked my first scratch cake. How amazing the chemistry that takes raw ingredients, the alchemy of milk, eggs, extracts, add a little heat and voila, it is something different. The "icing" on that cake, and the pun is intended, is to watch with singular pleasure the absolute joy that emanates around the dining table when those metamorphosed ingredients are devoured by appreciative guests! Yes, I am hooked! As much as my kitchen baptism at the ripe old age of 7 revolved around baking, I am neither a baker, nor a pastry maven. I am a full fledged, die hard recipe kitchen cook. I have my repetoire of scratch cakes, cookies, pies and quick breads, but my metier is not baking. Baking has all these rules, and then there are those bakers (my mother was one) who will tell you, "you'll know it when you see it!" See what? My mom and her mom baked so many rolls, loaves of bread, pies, cakes, including that all so challenging biscuit that their instructions were almost inscrutable, I think it was genetic. Clearly my DNA didn't get that link. My taste and criteria for baked goods is a different story. I haven't had a truly memorable biscuit since my Aunt Mattie died. How does one make a biscuit that melts in your mouth and doesn't stick to the roof of your mouth? LARD, in a word... home rendered, pure as the driven snow, and no hydrogentated shortenings and no butter that softens at room temperature. No siree, the secret is LARD. As well as lard works in biscuits and pie crust, it doesn't do so well in my arteries. You bakers have your work cut out for you!