ISO chewy cornbread for stuffing/dressing
October 28, 2020 6:57 AM   Subscribe

I need a cornbread recipe to use for Thanksgiving stuffing. Last year, I made cornbread which was delicious, toasted it and it got even more delicious, and then once I put it into stuffing, it turned to mush. I want cornbread with texture, with chew, in recognizable chunks. What should I be doing differently? One small complication: cornbread recipe must be dairy free (eggs are fine), I can use almond/soy/oat milk. I'm looking for tips, recipes, or advice. Thank you!
posted by papergirl to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'd be tempted to cook polenta in a vegetable stock using the veggies in your stuffing, fry the polenta, then add back to separately sautéed veg.

That's a lot of work, though.

My guess is you didn't dry out the cornbread enough. You basically want cornbread croutons going into your stuffing. Crunchy and stale. You need the moisture out at the beginning so you don't get mush at the end.
posted by bfranklin at 8:03 AM on October 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I’d oven dry the cornbread to tooth-cracking dryness levels before making the stuffing.
posted by padraigin at 8:56 AM on October 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

This is the one I use. It calls for buttermilk--I've read about (but not tried myself) people using their regular milk substitute plus some vinegar or lemon juice to replace buttermilk. YMMV!

I agree with the above commenters that the cornbread should be cut into small croutons and thoroughly dried/toasted in the oven before using.
posted by lovecrafty at 10:00 AM on October 28, 2020

My Kentuckian family makes a cornbread-oyster-onion-celery stuffing (delicious) and it's very important to have dry cornbread and only make the dressing moist enough to stuff when you are stirring it together. My great grandma's recipe card says "broth to handle" which ends up being very little. If the stuffing is at all "wet" feeling, it will turn into a doughy plug in your turkey that you'll have to slice out.

We don't toast the cornbread crumbles, we just leave it out to cool after baking, and then don't add very much other moisture to the stuffing.

Cornbread Stuffing
- 8x8 pan of cornbread, cooled, dry is good
- 1 pint raw oysters chopped
- 3 cups celery chopped
- 1 cup onion chopped
- 1 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1/2 to 1 cup melted butter, margarine, or oil of choice
- 1-2 tsp ground sage
- Giblet broth to handle (cook turkey giblets in water w/ bay leaf, onion ends, celery ends, skim froth)
- salt/pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients. Add enough broth to be able to scoop stuffing into turkey, not enough to make it goopy and wet. Err on the side of dryer rather than moister.
posted by some chick at 10:03 AM on October 28, 2020

Best answer: Basically what you want is cornbread that acts more like wheat bread. Whereas wheat bread is made from a dough leavened with yeast, cornbread is a quickbread made from a batter. It's really more of an extra-thick pancake than a "bread," per se. There is no way that's going to have integrity and chew after being soaked with a liquid, and I would argue that cornbread never had "chew" in the first place. A big part of the reason cornbread doesn't hold together or have chew is that corn has no gluten, and the small amount of gluten that is in the flour component isn't particularly developed. This provides a clue as to how you can possibly get what you want: Make a "cornbread" that contains plenty of gluten and is made from a dough leavened with yeast. You can use bread flour for the flour component, but I think you'll need to put in some vital wheat gluten to bump things up a little more to get what you want. Only add enough liquid (no fat) to form a medium-stiff dough, knead to develop the gluten, etc. and bake as you would a wheat loaf of a similar size and hydration. Once that's baked off and cooled, you can cut it into cubes, toast it in the oven to dry it off even more, and then use those cubes as the bread component of your dressing.

Oh, and for sure don't put it inside the bird regardless of which recipe/technique you use. This is terrible for both the bird and the dressing. Bake it in a separate baking dish. If you bake it uncovered in a shallow baking dish, even one made with regular cornbread will be less mushy once the top crisps up. Regardless, however, you're not going to get "chew" out of any kind of cornbread. Cornbread is inherently tender, just like, yanno, a really thick corn pancake.
posted by slkinsey at 10:36 AM on October 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

If drying out the cornbread isn't enough, what gives traditional bread chew is gluten. Is your cornbread all corn or a mix of wheat and corn? Could you make a yeasted corn and wheat bread, like anadama bread?
posted by carrioncomfort at 10:41 AM on October 28, 2020

Best answer: You can substitute orange juice for milk, it even vinegar and water. You need acid to activate the baking powder. If you use oj reduce the sugar Yes, the cornbread has to be very dry. Bake the stuffing in a shallow pan to let moisture bake out and enhance the crunch. Don't reduce the fat, that will help with crunch
posted by theora55 at 11:26 AM on October 28, 2020

Best answer: I make my stuffing cornbread in sheet pans rather than a skillet or casserole-depth dish, and I often do this at the end of October and freeze it until I need it, and I make double so I have some for December's big meal too*. It's dry as hell that way.

So you're making multiple pans of basically cornbread flatbread, which I let cool and then cut into 4-6 pieces and leave out on the cooling rack all night, and then bag and store in fridge or freezer depending on how far in advance you make it. You'll want at least four sturdy non-buckling commercial-grade quarter-sheet pans (which I find more useful year-round) or at least two half-sheets.

*Generally, I make both holidays' dressing in early-mid November, in my two largest casserole dishes, and freeze them whole so that I can decant it back into the dish I made it in, thaw it there, and reheat whole**. Spritz it with oil at the end and either broil it or just put it up as high as you can in the oven and you should get crispiness.

**Or I would if this was a normal year. This year I'm still making a double batch but cooking and freezing in two-person servings so we can have dressing whenever the mood strikes, more like meal prep.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:03 PM on October 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, um, to answer the specific question: I don't think the cornbread recipe matters, I use the kind in a bag or sometimes Bob's. But DO use a recipe/mix that has egg and fat in it, I think that matters in how it behaves ultimately in the dressing.

Also, if you look at the best photographs of cornbread dressing, there's identifiable substantial crouton-like cornbread pieces. I think people start "crumbling" cornbread and get too fussy, I've made that mistake myself. Err to the size of too-large rather than too small; larger dice rather than sandy crumble. You're making a bread pudding, really, rather than a cake, you need big craggy pieces to survive the process with any definition.

But if you do end up with mushy dressing, waffle it. That will get you some crunchy bits, it's delicious. It's ideal for leftovers, too.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:28 PM on October 28, 2020

« Older Boss is leaving, need a melodramatic quotation for...   |   Another mask question, for someone who doesn't... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments