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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Test Recipe: Albers Corn Bread

Recently, in the Forum JediLow asked for a cornbread recipe. So I thought I'd see how the Albers back of the box recipe does. In my experience, some of the back of the box recipes are horrible and some are excellent (Nestle Tollhouse Cookies). So, here we go.

Supermarkets in my area carry a brand of cornbread called Albers.

Here's the transcribed recipe from the back of this box of Albers Yellow Corn Meal.

Albers Cornbread
1 cup ALBERS Yellow Corn Meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten

PREHEAT oven to 400°F. Grease 8-inch-square baking pan.
COMBINE corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Combine milk, oil and egg in small bowl; mix well. Add milk mixture to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Pour into prepared pan.
BAKE for 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Serve warm.
NOTE: Recipe may be doubled. Use greased 13x9-inch baking pan; bake as above.

In the medium bowl, I placed the corn meal and flour. I measured out sugar, baking powder and salt as well. In the measuring cup, I poured whole milk and canola oil and broke a large egg into it.

I poured the sugar, baking powder, and salt into the medium bowl and gave the dry ingredients a quick whisk.

I whisked the liquids until they were smooth and poured it into the medium bowl over the dry ingredients.

After whisking briefly, I poured the batter into a greased 8x8 inch pan.

Into a 400°F oven it went and twenty minutes later I came back with a bamboo skewer. Plunging the skewer into the middle of the cornbread, I checked to see if anything stuck to the skewer as it came out. It came out clean, so the cornbread was done.

Normally, I'd cut the cornbread into nine pieces of 2-2/3 in. squares, but neither Tina nor I were hungry, so I cut it into sixteen pieces.

So, how did it taste? Tina and I both agreed that there was not enough sugar and for some reason there was a slight sour taste. I can't figure out what could have caused the sourness unless my canola oil had gone bad (I'm sure I would have noticed since I smelled and examined it beforehand). The baking powder should chemically counteract itself (in terms of acid and base reactions) and the milk was definitely not sour (since I had a glass with dinner).

In addition, I found the texture more gritty than what I like in a cornbread (I hate to admit it, but the cornbread I like is from Boston Market), but Tina felt the texture was about right and what she expected.

I'm going to have to test this recipe at least once more to see if the sour flavor persists.

Albers Corn Bread (serves nine)
Preheat oven to 400°F
1 cup yellow corn mealcombinestirbake 400°F 20 min.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup whole milkwhisk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
Copyright Michael Chu 2004

posted by Michael Chu @ 9/22/2004 06:30:28 PM   27 comments
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At 7:58 PM, Hypatia said...

Cornbread is always better when cooked in a cast iron skillet (the bigger the skillet, the thinner/crispier the cornbread the better). It's done when it pulls away from the edges of the pan and is brown on top.
Grease the skillet before hand by swirling a bit of canola oil around in it. Great way to help bake in the seasoning on the skillet.

The grittiness depends on the cornmeal you buy (buy more finely ground and you might like it better).

The best cornbread recipie I know comes from the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook (copyright 1968). 1 C sifted all-purpose flour; 1/4 C sugar; 4 tsp baking powder; 3/4 tsp salt; 1 C yellow cornmeal; 2 eggs; 1 C milk; 1 C shortening. Combine ingredients. Do not overmix. Bake at 425 F for 20-25 min.

At 8:12 PM, Alredhead said...

Good try. Maybe you'll come up with something you like more. The Better Homes & Gardens recipe is good, that's the one my grandmother made (a lot of the original recipes made it to later versions).


At 8:28 PM, Anonymous said...

Yeah, Albers will do you in a pinch. But I wouldn't rely on it. Look around for some hippy natural food shop that moves a lot of bulk corn meal. You'll find great stuff there.
You bet the cast iron is the nicest. I usually preheat the sucker for a bit. Rub it with a slice of bacon.
I would substitute the shortening for real lard. I render my own on a regular basis. The light yet rich flavor in baking can't be reproduced with shortening. It gets used in meat pie crusts, greasing of the pancake griddle and curing of the cast iron. Even rendered duck fat doesn't have the same non-stick qualities. Although, duck fat is amazing in its own right. YUM. Especially for sauces ... oh man.

At 8:33 PM, Anonymous said...

Ah yes. I'm not a fan of adding the cheese, peppers and canned corn to my breads. But I have to say, fresh Thyme in corn bread is a wondeful thing.

Dr. B. / Meathenge

At 9:13 PM, dayment said...

Jiffy corn muffin mix with jalapenos and cheddar rules. It ain't exactly homemade, but I like it.

At 11:31 PM, Digital Dater said...

This has nothing to do with cornbread, but recipes on the back of the box. The Coffee cake on the back of a Splenda box has that coffee house, old diner feel.

Maybe it's one of those simpleton recipes.

Tell me this, is there an easy way to convert Splenda packets into the correct amount of regular sugar that should be used?

Someone outta' make a chart!

The best ingredient of cornbread is the final oozing globs of butter that soak through to the bottom.

At 9:02 AM, The Chunky Girl said...

I think you'll find that there are many different opinions on what makes good cornbread. My Granny, who was raised on the Tennessee Kentucky border, always made cornbread with white corn meal and buttermilk in a cast iron skillet. She never used egg or sugar so the bread wasn't sweet and was snow white inside. She greased the pan with bacon drippings. Sometimes she'd add "cracklins" I don't know exactly what those are but I'm sure they are a pork product. My husbands family is from south Georgia has a comletely differen't recipe for cornbread. The only way it resembles my Granny's is in the absence of sugar. I'd love to see you try out a few different variations on this recipe and compare.

At 9:30 AM, Michael Chu said...

re: Splenda

I think the Splenda guys say you should use equal amounts. 1 Tbs. Splenda = 1 Tbs. granulated sugar. I'll check on this.

re: Varieties of cornbread

I plan to try more versions, just as soon as we finish this batch. :)


At 9:32 AM, Sreekesh Menon said...

Cooking for Engineers, good theme. was just introduced to your site by a friend. nice.

At 11:06 AM, Stephanie said...

Regarding Cornbread, try Alton's recipe...
I can dig it up if you can't find it. I also like my cornbread on the sweet side.

Regarding splenda: I think the packets are the equivalent in sweetness as two teaspoons of sugar. If you want to use Splenda for cooking, I recommend the bulk bag or the bulk box. That kind does measure like sugar (volumetrically, of course). You can only use it for things where the sugar is mixed in - it cannot be caramelized like normal sugar, and I don't think it reduces into a syrup the same way normal sugar does.

At 12:27 PM, Sara said...

I am not an engineer, but I like to eat. The Jiffy corn muffin mix is excellent--you can do cornbread, and it's easy,fast, and friggin' cheap. One box is approx. $1.00 up here in Seattle.
About the Splenda--I was in a grocery store the other day buying basic baking ingredients, among them sugar. I almost walked out the door with a bag of Splenda instead of a bag of "regular" sugar. So you may not have to sit around opening tiny packets all day in order to get the amount you want--for recipes that call for copius amounts of sweetner, that is.

At 1:02 PM, Anonymous said...

The white/yellow sweet/salty cornbread is a north/south divide. Yankees tend to like their cornbread thick, yellow, and slightly sweet. Southern cornbread tends to be white, thin, and salty.

My favorite recipe is the Jalapeño Cheddar Cheese cornbread from Bernard Clayton's Complete book of Breads.


At 10:34 AM, Anonymous said...

>The white/yellow sweet/salty cornbread is a north/south divide.
>Yankees tend to like their cornbread thick, yellow, and slightly
>sweet. Southern cornbread tends to be white, thin, and salty.

Really, I thought is was just the opposite. I grew up on savory cornbread in Michigan, and it wasn't until I was in Georgia that I realized sweet cornbread existed. That's where I also discovered pre-sweetened tea in restaurants.

At 1:00 AM, Anonymous said...

By the way, as a geeky history buff aside, I work in what is called the "Albers Mill Building" in downtown Portland, Oregon. The building used to be a wheat and corn mill; it's on the riverfront. It's been converted to dotcom offices.

At 7:02 PM, Anonymous said...

Your experience is somewhat atypical. It used to be a rule of thumb that the further north you went, the sweeter the cornbread got. Wide distribution of commercial cornbread mixes has obscured this.

Jiffy is northern cornbread: thick, yellow, and sweet. It makes good muffins, but unless you have a real sweet tooth, it's not what you want to use to mop your plate at dinner. Other mixes are less sweet. One clue is the cornbread pictured on the package. If it's white, it's probably less sweet. If your grocery store has a section for black or southern cooking, you might try the cornbread there.

Cracklins (as in cracklin' bread) are the crispy bits left behind after you render down hog fat. They're hard to find these days. Try substituting the bits left in the pan after you fry bacon.

A couple of superior back-of-the-package recipes: Solo Almond Filling (canned, in the baking section; make sure you get the filling, not their almond paste) has a recipe for almond cake that makes people make involuntary happy noises when they taste it. For extra fun, bake it in a ring pan, split it horizontally, and fill and glaze it with hot apricot preserves or marmalade, then coat the top with sliced toasted almonds while the glaze is still hot.

Also: my mother and grandmother both swore the best recipe for canonical pumpkin pie was the one on the back of the Libby's Pumpkin can. After several decades of testing this proposition, I have to admit that I've never found one I like better. You want the straight pumpkin, not the kind that comes with sugar and spices already added.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden

At 12:08 PM, Old Jo said...

The reason your cornbread tasted sour is that you used much too much baking powder.

My version is the following:
3/4 cup sugar
2 beaten eggs
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder -- Obs. NOT tablespoons!!
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 1/2 cups milk

Mix sugar and beaten eggs. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together and add to first mixture. Add cornmeal, melted butter, and milk. Beat enough to mix.
Bake in hot over (400 degrees F / 200 degrees C) about 30 minutes or until done.
Makes 1 panful which cuts into 21 squares.


At 12:57 PM, Michael Chu said...

But 3 teaspoons = 1 Tablespoon!

I will try the Albers recipe one more time (probably tonight) and then try your recipe. It looks like a lot of sugar, but maybe that's why it tastes wonderful!


At 11:07 AM, Old Jo said...

Yes, 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon, but I used _two_ cups of flour, not one.

I don't know what Albers cornmeal is. I buy "Polenta" in the underground market here in Stockholm. It is not coarse enough for me, but it is all that is available.

At 12:53 PM, Anonymous said...

I recently had our family in for a Sunday brunch.We served all the usual things,eggs,bacon,sausage etc.we also served corn bread with jalipenos in it.My grandchildren had never tasted it before and ate it all up.I must do it again.

At 10:28 PM, The Boo Guy said...

The well-kept secret from Syracuse, New York is the Dinosaur Barbeque. They already have them in Rochester and Manhattan, with more to follow. Their cornbread is unbelievable (i've made it and eaten it at the restaurant), as is everything else they make. The best barbeque, even according to my southern relatives.

At 1:41 PM, valik said...


Very innovative way of compacting the recipes. You are on to something. I think you can publish a cooking book with that recipe pattern and it will sell. because it's different. I would buy it. But it's got to have color. Just like your pages on the BLOGGER.

At 1:06 PM, fatoudust said...

There are many people in the South who feel very strongly about the issue of sugar in cornbread. To many, cornbread should not have sugar in it. If it does, then it should be called corn cake or corn muffins, depending upon the form.

There are, of course, many who disagree. It seems to be one of those highly emotional regional things like chili or barbeque that people can get really worked up over.

I've found that using butter instead of oil in the recipe and for greasing the pan helps the texture and flavor of both cornbread and corn cake.

At 10:57 AM, Anonymous said...

I prefer sweeter, yellow cornbread. However, I never use sugar, but honey instead. And just enough to leave the hint of honey; the fun part is adding fresh honey & butter while it's still hot. Dipped in chili. Mmm.

At 5:36 AM, Anonymous said...

Not to sound dume but can't you use corn oil to coat the pan and add to the mix. Wouldn't that give it more corn flavor?

At 7:34 PM, Anonymous said...

So, if you use honey instead of sugar, what's your subsitution ratio? 1/4c sugar = how much honey? "Just enough" is a little tough to measure for some of us.

At 11:15 PM, Anonymous said...

The cast-iron skillet is crucial, in my view, and pre-heating it is great, though you can sometimes end up with a tough crust if you are using one of the high-gluten recipies & you pre-heat it all the way to 400.

As far as the north-south divide goes, I'm not so sure. Both of my grandmothers (both old-school Texans who learned to cook in the 20's, presumably before regional differences were all that blurred...) made yellow corn bread.

My mother's mother made it very short, with little sugar added, but using a high ratio of corn meal to flour, which meant it was sweeter than flour-heavy unsweetened cornbreads. She used a large skillet, so the bread was shallow, and shortened it with bacon grease (She would fry breakfast bacon in the skillet, then pour off the extra grease into the cornbread batter, and put the cornbread in the oven to bake while you eat breakfast. You have to eat a lot of bacon to make this work -- not recommended for the cholesterol-threatened.)

My father's mother made a taller, sweeter cornbread, but also using yellow meal. She usually baked it in one of those cast-iron corn-cake pans that make cakes shaped like ears of corn (shorter baking time, more surface area to become crust). She shortened the bread itself with Crisco, but greased the pan with butter.

For my part, I like both of these recipies. I like the flavor of yellow meal better than white. Also, for a more intense corn flavor, you can use a cup of corn meal and, in place of a cup of regular wheat flour, a half cup each of high gluten flour and masa harana or corn flour. You can add kernels of fresh corn, just sliced off the ear. And (yummy with catfish!) you can add sage, black pepper, and onion.

At 11:17 AM, cookieMC said...

Try Albers White Cornmeal receipe for for Sweet Cornbread. Use whole
wheat flour instead of regular flour. This one is a winner.
Reminds me when I was in school eating at the cafeteria. It is the best cornbread I ever tasted.
Try it once. You will se what I mean.


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