Recipe might help bridge the corn bread di­vide

The Tribune (SLO) (Sunday) - - Living - BY BECKY KRYSTAL

There is a lot that di­vides us as a coun­try. And I’m not talk­ing about pol­i­tics.

I write about food, which can be just as di­vi­sive. Ketchup with fries? Thick- or thin-crust pizza? Does avo­cado toast sig­nal the end of times? Is a hot dog a sand­wich?

Even when I’ve delved into what I thought were neu­tral top­ics – pound cake, cook­ing with ap­ples and, uh, buck­wheat waf­fles (re­ally!) – the fists have come out. I don’t typ­i­cally start writ­ing a recipe or how-to guide ex­pect­ing, much less an­gling for, a fight. Un­til now.

I am con­fi­dent I am go­ing to alien­ate about, oh, half of ya’ll here who like corn bread. The half of you who think that sugar has ab­so­lutely no place in corn bread. Sorry! (The topic has even di­vided the – very gra­cious, I’m sure – peo­ple at South­ern Liv­ing.)

This is ap­par­ently how I like my corn bread, af­ter try­ing it with and with­out sugar. My fel­low tasters agreed, at least in my re­cent face­off.

There have been some pretty in­ter­est­ing takes on how the line in the ... sugar is drawn. And it’s not nec­es­sar­ily a North­South thing. As Kath­leen Purvis ex­plored in the Char­lotte News & Ob­server a few years ago, there are racial di­vides just among South­ern cooks alone.

The type of corn­meal most of us use seems to play a sig­nif­i­cant role, as Purvis ex­plains. A lot of the gro­cery store corn­meal we have in our pantries is in­dus­trial-milled, yel­low, fine-grained and lack­ing in corn fla­vor, un­like the coarser, white and, yes, sweeter stuff that used to be more com­mon. Small pro­duc­ers such as An­son Mills spe­cial­ize in that her­itage type of corn­meal, which is why chefs who use it, such as Sean Brock, can get away with a clas­sic sug­ar­free corn bread. But to say that every­one has easy ac­cess to a lo­cal mill or on­line or­der­ing would be a stretch.

When I baked a “South­ern” cast-iron skil­let corn bread fea­tur­ing typ­i­cal store-bought corn­meal with­out sugar, not to men­tion flour, we found the fla­vor a bit dull and the tex­ture too dry and crumbly. The sugar and flour ver­sion baked in a reg­u­lar cake pan had a won­der­ful moist tex­ture and tasted cornier, like a good sweet corn on the cob. It was well-rounded, not overly sac­cha­rine, es­pe­cially since it was a fairly re­strained 1/3 cup of sugar in the whole 8-inch bread.

The quick and easy recipe comes from cook­book au­thor Eli­nor Kli­vans, who has con­trib­uted some win­ning recipes to the Wash­ing­ton Post over the years. In my opin­ion, this one is as well. It might win over some of you sugar skep­tics, but hey, as long as you’re mak­ing a home­made corn bread you love, I call that a win, too.

TOM MCCORKLE Wash­ing­ton Post

There’s a de­bate over whether corn bread should be made with sugar or not. This recipe calls for sugar.

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