07 December 2011

Cornbread, fried

We get fresh bread delivered to our front gate four times a week here on the outskirts of Saint-Aignan. It's a great service organized by our village baker as a way to supply bread to people who might not drive or own a car and who live too far from the village center to walk there. For us, it's a convenience and an environmentally sound scheme, since we don't have to start the car every day and drive 6 or 7 kilometers just to get a baguette or a croissant.

But as I said, we get bread delivered only on four days. The other three days, we eat French bread that we've bought in advance and stored in plastic bags in the freezer, or we make our own breads. We make pizzas regularly, foccacia or fougasses once in a while, and we've made U.S.-style "Parker House rolls" and pita-type breads that are called fouées in French. Sometimes I make the Southern U.S. quick bread we call "biscuits."

These are a kind of fried cornbread called "hushpuppies,"
which we made last week. They're a U.S. Southern specialty.

There's a recipe with cooking instructions in this 2008 post.

But another style of bread we make, mostly because of my Southern U.S. background, is corn bread — "corn" meaning maize or maïs. Corn breads can be baked or fried. They are leavened with baking powder (levure chimique or poudre à lever) as opposed to baker's yeast (levure de boulanger), or just with baking soda (bicarbonate, bicarbonate de soude). You can buy bicarbonate alimentaire in the supermarkets in France, and you can buy little packets of levure chimique.

The prerequisite to making corn breads, of course, is having access to a supply of corn meal or corn flour (I don't mean what we call "cornstarch" in the U.S., which is mainly used to thicken sauces or puddings). Corn meal comes in yellow or in white; it can be water-ground or stone-ground; and it can be coarsely or finely milled.

Another kind of fried corn bread doesn't require deep-frying.
You cook these in a pan like pancakes, in butter or oil.
There's a recipe in this 2010 post — scroll down to find it.

Coarsely milled corn meal is also known as polenta. You can make baked corn breads with it, but it's better if you used it mixed with all-purposed wheat flour (farine de froment). For fried corn breads, finely milled meal is a requirement. You don't need to mix wheat flour with it, so the breads are gluten-free (good for those who are allergic to gluten).

My mother used to make fried corn breads all the time when I was growing up. And baked corn breads too. They are truly delicious — very rich, slightly sweet, and crunchy.

Near Saint-Aignan, we have found finely ground corn meal at the Planète Verte shop in Montrichard — it's a local product — also, imported from Italy, at the Paris Store Asian and imported foods shops in Blois and in Tours. You might find it in your local supermarket — you certainly will in the U.S. For several years I was "importing" my own corn meal by bringing it back from North Carolina or asking friends to bring me some. It's a heavy load, though, and now I don't have to do that any more.


  1. Cornbread is a yummy thing :) The one they sell at our local grocery store chain tastes like corncake -- it's that sweet. I like it with cheese in it, too.

    Yumm :)

    Flurries here, and it is cooooooold.

  2. Oh, wouldn't that be good with some sweet tea! (You know I don't mean hot sweet tea.)

  3. Oh, I do love hushpuppies. And polenta pancakes. And I know all about the intricacies of finding cornmeal in France. Asian and African stores are a godsend. :) Thanks for the shoutout in your last post!

  4. Jalapeno cheese cornbread is a favorite. Although I've never made it myself, if I see it in a restaurant, that's what I go for.

  5. Ken, our Boulang sells Mais... it is not a cornbread as such, rather a 'heavier than standard' short baguette with what tastes like fresh/tinned sweetcorn in it. They don't do it all the time.... 'tis one of their 'speciality' breads. But it freezes well and we often buy two and sling one into a bag and then into the freezer.

  6. Croquecamille, you are so right.

    Tim, some of our local boulangeries also sell a pain au maïs, but it's nothing like what we call corn bread in the U.S. It's good though, just different, with much wheat flour and just a little corn meal or flour in it.


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