Thursday, July 25, 2013

A new project...

A bit ago I got myself the 1896 edition (reproduction) of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, having been pleased with more recent editions and curious about what original (and amazing) recipes had gotten lost along the way. Tonight was the first one out the gate, Corn Meal Gems, and it came out fairly well.

Now, there are some bits of assumed knowledge that I've already run into and some equipment I'm beginning to lust after. First off, for Fannie Farmer back in the day, "Gem" translated into "muffin" and a "hot oven" is someplace between 380F and 390F - useful knowledge in these days of precise oven settings and after a century of linguistic evolution. Fortunately the  mom-unit was around to translate (may of these terms were still current in Depression-era South Dakota where she grew up) and additionally, Google is our friend. Secondly, while I was able to fake it with an aluminum  muffin/cupcake pan from the 1940's the pictures I've been able to find show a cast iron pan with shallower and broader depressions for the batter - I'm curious to see what, if any, change I'd get by taking the next step towards authentic.

Corn Meal Gems
Fannie Farmer - 1896

1/2 Cup Cornmeal
1 Cup Flour
3 tsp Baking Powder
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Melted Butter
1/2 Tsp of Salt
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
Mix & sift dry ingredients. Add milk gradually, egg well beaten, and melted butter. Bake in hot oven in buttered gem pans for 25 minutes.

After Action: Mom's guess that "hot" was 400F wasn't far off. Other sources indicate 380-390F is closer to what the cooks of the day considered "hot", and certainly the crust in the pan was a bit crunchy - hinting that a cooler oven might be a good thing. At the same time, this recipe "stuck together" when served far better than most cornbread variants I've run into (something I approve of) and was less sweet than many modern incarnations - a faint hit of bitter was intriguing.

Worked well on their own with butter, and also as a bowl-filler with chili. Both the mom-unit and I approved - her, I suspect, for the sake of nostalgia....and me because "hey, this is good stuff!"


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