Batter Up!

We had one cheery week of spring weather and overnight it turned chilly and overcast again. A quick glance at the exterior temperature gauge told me that once more, we were looking at optimum conditions for a hearty pot of homemade lip-smacking-stick-to-your-ribs soup. From my pantry shelves I pulled out a recent discovery from my market’s bulk food section: an odd bean medley of peas, garbanzos, soy, lentils plus a few other unidentifiable items. Since I had no directions, I could only surmise that it would likely require a good two hours of steady simmering.

Into the pot the collection went with a couple slices of bacon, carrots, onions, celery and peppers, some coriander, dried thyme, bay, freshly ground pepper and plenty of water to cover. Once the soup was underway, it didn’t take me long to conclude that a loaf of freshly baked bread would be the ideal accompaniment.

This past winter I have enjoyed playing with old-fashioned batter breads. These yeasty jewels are delicious, versatile, and ready to eat in about two hours. Busy homemakers have relied on their convenience for decades because they are practically fool proof and require no baking expertise. They are beaten and not kneaded, require only a brief rise, plopped and spread into a pan, given another quick rise, and then baked to perfection. Still, the loaves yield a lovely crumb sturdy enough to slice thinly for toast, sandwiches or general snacking.

If you have followed my Blog, then you know I am a confirmed cornmeal fan – and that is exactly where we are headed. A slight amount of cornmeal adds a blush of color, crunch, and sweetness to our loaf, and creates an ideal companion for the sumptuous split pea mega soup. It’s best if you can resist temptation and wait for your bread to cool, but if you can’t – slice away! Enjoy it warm slathered with butter, and if your are lucky, perhaps a steamy cup of soup.

Cornmeal Batter Bread
1 envelope rapid rise yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup liquid (water or milk, or any combo)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour, approx.
1/2 cup cornmeal, plus additional for pan
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 Tbsp. shredded Parmesan Cheese (opt.)

In 1/4 cup warm water dissolve yeast. Separately, heat 1 cup liquid until hot, add sugar and salt and stir to dissolve.

In mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour, cornmeal, and baking soda. Add part of the hot liquid and begin stirring. Beat in the yeast mixture, the oil, and the remainder of the hot liquid; continue beating 3-5 minutes, adding additional flour as needed to make a fairly stiff batter. Spray a medium sized bowl and dump the dough into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled, 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile spray and dust 9×5″ baking pan with cornmeal. When dough is doubled, scrape it into baking pan and smooth evenly. Let rise until it reaches top of pan, 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat oven to 375 degrees. Optional, sprinkle top with shredded Parmesan cheese prior to baking. Bake 45 minutes until brown and sounds hollow when thumped on bottom. Cool on rack. Yield: 1 loaf. ~~

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