SERVES 4 to 6
I’m the type of person who adds extra cheese to pizza, so this cornbread is a tribute to my love for cheese. It’s a riot of flavor, with sharp cheddar; sweet, tiny nuggets of corn that burst in your mouth; and a little fire from the red chilli flakes.
1⁄2 cup [120 ml] melted ghee or unsalted butter, plus a little extra to grease the baking dish
2 cups [280 g] all-purpose flour
2 cups [280 g] medium-grind cornmeal
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground fennel
1 to 2 tsp red chilli flakes, such as Aleppo or Maras
1⁄2 tsp ground turmeric
1⁄4 tsp ground cayenne
1 1⁄2 cups [120 g] grated sharp cheddar
1 cup [144 g] sweet corn kernels, fresh or frozen (if frozen, thaw before use)
1⁄4 cup [50 g] packed dark brown sugar or jaggery
1⁄4 cup [85 g] honey
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups [480 ml] whole milk, at room temperature
2 tsp fine sea salt
THE FLAVOR APPROACH
Adding sweet corn kernels to the mixture of flour and cornmeal adds a depth of sweetness.
Dark brown sugar and honey contribute sweetness as well as help with the structure of the bread as it bakes. They also participate in the caramelization and Maillard reaction and introduce new flavor molecules.
Dairy fats, including ghee and cheddar, as well as the lipids in the yolks provide fat in the cornbread, which boosts texture, taste, and aroma.
Turmeric’s chief role in this cornbread is as a pigment to increase the rich yellow. Fennel seeds amplify the perception of sweetness.
Preheat the oven to 400°F [204°C]. Grease a 9 by 12 in [23 by 30.5 cm] baking dish with a little ghee.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, coriander, fennel, red chilli flakes, turmeric, and cayenne. Reserve 3 Tbsp of the dry mixture.
Toss 1 cup [80 g] of the cheddar and the corn kernels with the reserved 3 Tbsp of the dry mixture in a medium mixing bowl.
In a large bowl, whisk together the melted ghee, brown sugar, honey, eggs, milk, and salt until combined and the sugar is completely dissolved.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in the large mixing bowl. Pour the liquid mixture into the well and whisk until the ingredients are completely combined and there are no visible flecks of the dry ingredients. Using a spatula, fold in the cheddar-corn mixture. Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish and level the surface with the spatula. Sprinkle the remaining 1⁄2 cup [40 g] of cheddar over the surface. Bake until the sides are golden brown, and a skewer or knife comes out clean when inserted into the center, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm.
Reprinted from The Flavor Equation by Nik Sharma with permission by Chronicle Books, 2020.
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