Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sweet Potato Cornbread

For the past couple of years, I lived around the corner from a soul food buffet restaurant. I didn't eat there very often (why didn't I? Because I am an idiot!), but when I did I was always sure to get a big ol' hunk of their sweet potato cornbread, because it was unlike any other thing I've ever had. This recipe is nowhere near as good as theirs, but it's still walking distance from my new place and I may just have to go over there and get some and see if I can work out what they did differently. Three times more sweet potatoes, or honey, or some molasses maybe? I wouldn't be surprised. I'll let you know if I figure it out.

Don't get me wrong, this sweet potato cornbread still thrills me. Everyone who had a piece of this batch was pretty pleased with it, one of my friends even vowed to write a poem in its honor. But if you live in Bushwick and know the soul food place on Broadway, it may let you down a little. I, for one, am totally spoiled.

Sweet Potato Corn Bread

3 sweet potatoes
3 tbsp butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup corn meal
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of clove
1 1/4 cups buttermilk*
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Fill a small sauce pot about 3/4 with water and bring to a boil. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into chunks. Add them to the boiling water and cook about 20 minutes, then remove from heat and drain. Add butter, then mash with a potato masher or pulse in a food processor until fluffy. Transfer to a medium bowl and let cool to room temperature.
While it's cooling, preheat the oven to 400ยบ. Grease a 9x9" baking pan and set it aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and clove. Mix the buttermilk and eggs into the bowl with the sweet potatoes, then add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined and a little lumpy. Pour into the pan and bake in the center of the oven about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the edges pull away from the pan a bit.
Let cool mostly before cutting or it will crumble beyond repair.

I recommend serving this with breaded catfish and something dark green and leafy.

If you don't have buttermilk handy (most of us don't) you can add about 1 tsp of lemon juice or white vinegar per cup of milk. Just add the spoiler to the milk and set it aside before you do any other prep work and it'll be nice and curdly when you're ready for it.

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