Recipe of the Month: Triple Corn Tender Cake
06 October 2020
This recipe does not come from a specific place either (especially as cornbread as we know it is not a Mexican thing per se), but it is imbued with el espíritu del maíz, made as it is from three different kinds of corn: kernels, masa harina and cornmeal. The freshly-creamed kernels add tenderness along with the buttermilk, giving you a crumb and texture that is softer than bread or cake but not as soufflé-like as a spoonbread. (I have experimented with sour cream, single and double cream and milk, but settled for buttermilk.) It is a gentle side dish which goes well with all sorts of chicken dinners, as a sop to chilli, tajines, soups, meat, seafood, and vegetable stews, or by itself, topped with a pat of butter. Triple corn tender cake really loves the company of bacon, pork chops, ham and gammon and I would happily eat it with any of those, accompanied by eggs, any-style.
Serves 4-6 depending on appetite
4oz/110g butter, softened
3oz/85g masa harina
60ml warm water
12oz/340g fresh shucked corn or canned, drained sweetcorn
2oz/55g white sugar
2 tablespoons buttermilk
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
If you are using fresh corn, shuck the cobs and, using a sharp knife, cut the kernels away. If you are using canned, drain the kernels. Now process the kernels in a food processor or with a stick blender until they are smooth and creamy. You can leave them chunkier, but I prefer not to.
In a medium bowl beat your butter until it is pale and soft. Pour in the masa harina and water and beat until well blended. Now, stir the creamed corn in until incorporated. This is the time to breathe in deeply because the scent of corn is intense.
Take a separate bowl and mix the cornmeal, sugar, buttermilk, salt and baking powder, then add it to your corn mixture and fold until the mixture is well blended. Pour batter into an ungreased 26cm x 20cm (or thereabouts) baking dish (there is no need to grease it first) and smooth its surface with a spatula. Wrap foil around the base and sides of the baking dish and then cover the top with foil too. Place your well-wrapped dish into a large roasting tray and pour in hot water until it comes a third of the way up the sides of your baking dish. The water bath method will help keep the crumb tender.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes but check it after 50 minutes; ovens vary. Remove the top layer of foil for the last five minutes of cooking. Serve scooped from the dish.