This is quite the busy month for Green Gal of the Midwest, and it will mean some time away from this blog—say three weeks, maybe. But we’ll talk more about that in a few. For now, I’d like to discuss brunch.
I just love brunch. If I have the choice on holidays or other special occasions when I’m in charge of the meal, I always opt for hosting a brunch. Because with brunch, there are no rules! Can’t be up at the crack of dawn? Guest arrival time is 1 p.m. Have a community event that evening at 7 p.m.? We’re setting the table at 5 a.m. for an early brunch at 10:30.
Brunch can be breakfast food or lunch food or both! I may serve a cocktail or maybe not. If I’m pressed for time, there’s an overnight strata or make-ahead baked oatmeal. If I really don’t want to serve meat, we do all eggs. If I have tons of vegans at the table, there’s a salad—sometimes fruit, sometimes veggies. And if we all need to just kick back and chill? Can you say mimosa? Sure, I knew you could.
But no matter what the menu, I always include a buttery coffee cake on my brunch table, a little touch of sweet to end the meal. However, coffee cakes, especially if you want them baked-in-the-morning fresh, can be a challenge for the hostess. Many are elaborate, requiring rising time, a tunnel of caramel or cream, and can command a lot of oven time (Not good if you only have one oven like me.). So my answer is skillet cornbread taken just a little over the top. Quick to prepare, bakes in 30 minutes or a little less and satisfies just about everyone. There is only one special ingredient for my version of stuffed cornbread—pie filling—and one special tool—a 10-inch cast iron skillet.
The pie filling I used was a bit extra-special in its own right, I must admit. My friend Debbie Haas, the wife of my CSA farmer Bruce, gave me a quart jar of her homemade, shelf-stable apple pie filling for Christmas this year. It is simply the best apple pie filling this side of my grandma’s. That’s quite the endorsement, in case you were wondering. Bruce and Debbie grow their own tart and crisp apples out at Daydream Farm, too. So this is a local, go-green dish, as well!
The point I need to make here is that if you try this recipe, (and I hope you do!) I suggest you use your own apple pie filling (or that of a generous friend) or buy a very reliable commercial can of pie filling that you know you can trust. Typically, commercially canned pie fillings contain more liquid and less actual fruit than you would desire, and this will affect the quality of the stuffed cornbread. Here, you want the thickest filling you can find or make. Near the end of this post, I’ll provide a simple berry filling that also works really great for stuffed cornbread, just in case you need another option. Because, of course, this skillet stuffed cornbread will be perfect for that Easter buffet or Mother’s Day brunch.
- One and a quarter cups stone-ground cornmeal (fine grind, if possible)
- Three-quarters cup whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
- Four tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- One teaspoon cinnamon
- Two teaspoons baking powder
- One-half teaspoon baking soda
- One-half teaspoon fine sea salt
- Two eggs, beaten until fluffy
- One cup of buttermilk
- One-third cup whole milk
- Two tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled (more for greasing the skillet)
- One and one-half cups apple pie filling
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Have your dairy and eggs at room temperature.
- Generously butter (not oil) the bottom and sides of a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk together the cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt
- In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, whole milk and beaten eggs until well combined and slightly foamy. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula, stirring just until combined. Stir in the melted, cooled butter.
- Pour half the batter into the prepared skillet. Then, carefully spoon on the pie filling, beginning in the center and working your way to about a half-inch or so from the edge. Avoid getting the filling up to the edge of the skillet. Try to get an even layer of filling. (See the photo at the end of the post.)
- Now carefully spoon on the remaining cornbread batter to completely cover the pie filling and the protruding bottom layer.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Then cool in the skillet for at least 20 to 30 minutes before serving so that the cornbread and filling have time to set up. The cooling time makes it much easier to cut your servings.
If you want a true coffee-cake flavor, combine a cup or so of sifted powdered sugar with a tablespoon or two of milk to make a nice creamy glaze. Drizzle on just before serving.
Blackberry Stuffed Cornbread
Here’s another version of stuffed cornbread using blackberry filling that we have enjoyed:
Combine one-half cup of sugar (such as plain raw sugar or evaporated cane juice) with one tablespoon of cornstarch and a pinch of fine sea salt. Whisk in about a quarter-cup of water until the sugar and cornstarch dissolve. Add two cups berries (My blackberries were frozen last summer; so I just thawed them and dumped them in.), one tablespoon of lemon juice and one teaspoon lemon zest. Cook over medium heat until thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently. You want the cornstarch flavor to cook away. Let this cool completely before using in the recipe above. BTW: you’ll have extra filling, so grab that ice cream!
Cast Iron Skillet Care
Sometimes I get comments about my reliance on a cast iron skillet—I use mine all the time for everything from frittatas, to breads to potatoes. People think that cast iron skillets require a lot of care and shy away from using them for that reason. And while it is true that they take a little extra attention to stay in pristine condition, they take far less work than you’d think, and deliver the most incredible crust on that cornbread. To encourage you to consider cooking with cast iron, which is very healthy, I offer wise words from the food editors at Delicious Living Magazine. They’ve put together a great info-graphic on cast iron care. As you will see, it is pretty easy to work with cast iron.
And delicious! This gluten-free and vegetarian Skillet Caprese Pizza from the folks at Delicious Living is a treat to eat and a breeze to make. With four servings, it makes for a family-style feast in one skillet. And, wouldn’t that be a surprise dish at brunch!
Now what was that I said about maybe three weeks away?
Well, as you probably know, Earth Day is Saturday, April 22. This year it means more to me than ever to participate as fully as I can in standing up for the Earth and for demanding a sensible and responsible USA response to Climate Change. As has been said so often lately—“There is no Planet B.” We need to take care of the Earth we have. So, I’ll be taking part in the March for Science that day in St. Louis—hope to see you there! Then on Saturday, April 29, the nation will come out (at least I hope so) for the People’s Climate March. There’s a huge one in Washington, DC and satellite marches all across the US, including St. Louis. Again, hope we pass each other carrying our signs for environmental justice. I am so excited to be going to the nation’s capitol for this event. All thanks to my local Sierra Club chapter. What a great organization. But there’s more…
Green Gal of the Midwest is making a change as it heads toward year two (Turning two in August!). When I come back from this little hiatus there will be a new design by Silver Tablet Marketing—my friend Debbie Ward is again working her magic to help me update and improve reader experience on the blog. She is so amazing, so patient and so wise. So stay tuned for the new GGMW!
And when we do come back, I’ll be taking you on a tour of Daydream Farm, getting up-close and personal with Bruce and Debbie Haas. One of the greenest things you will ever do this Earth Day or any day is support your independent, small organic farmers who directly feed your community. Market season is a mere weeks away. So shop local, eat healthy and ALWAYS be BRAVE in the kitchen. See you soon.