Recipe: Sweet or Savory Cornmeal Cakes

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In addition to making fine breakfasts or brunches, these cornmeal cakes have many savory applications.

Makes 24 to 30 griddle cakes
    • 1 2/3 cup corn meal, preferably medium grind (polenta corn meal is perfect)
    • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 3/4 teaspoon plus a pinch of salt
    • 1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk* (less will make a puffy 1/4-inch thick cake, more, a thinner crisper one)
    • 2 beaten eggs
    • 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter or bacon fat, plus extra to grease the skillet

In a medium bowl, combine the corn meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter.

Heat a large, heavy griddle or skillet over medium heat until a drop of water bounces across the surface. Brush the surface lightly with melted butter. Drop the batter, 2 tablespoons at a time, onto the surface, leaving enough room for pancakes to spread (The cakes will be about 3 inches in diameter). Adjust the heat if necessary to keep butter from burning.

Cook the cakes until the surface is bubbled and set and edges on underside are brown. Flip the cakes and cook until second side is brown. Repeat until all the batter is used, brushing the pan with butter before each batch.

Serve the cakes as they come off the griddle or keep them warm, layered in (and covered with) clean tea towels in a slow 200'F oven.

*If you don't have buttermilk, substitute cup milk mixed with 1 cup plain yogurt.

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Sally Schneider writes The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog about improvising as a daily practice. Her cookbook The Improvisational Cook is now out in paperback. More

Sally Schneider is the founder of The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog that inspires you to devise, invent, create, make it up as you go along, from design and cooking to cultivating the creative spirit. It's been called a "zeitgeist-perfect website." She is a regular contributor to public radio's The Splendid Table and the author of the best-selling cookbooks The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook, which was recently named one of the best books of the decade by The Guardian. She has won numerous awards, including four James Beard awards, for her books and magazine writing.

Sally has worked as a journalist, editor, stylist, lecturer, restaurant chef, teacher, and small-space consultant, and once wrangled 600 live snails for the photographer Irving Penn. Her varied work has been the laboratory for the themes she writes and lectures about: improvising as an essential operating principle; cultivating resourcefulness and your inner artist; design, style, and food; and anything that is cost-effective, resourceful, and outside the box.
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