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Spoonbread is a cornmeal dish that may have originated in the Americas. One bakes this bread in an oven after combining the main ingredients, but the end product is closer to a pudding than it is to sliced bread. As its name implies, the texture of the food is similar to a pudding, making it appropriate to eat it with a spoon.
Food historians often credit Native Americans with creating the original dish that is now known as spoonbread. The dish is prepared widely throughout the Americas, making this explanation plausible. Regional differences in the ingredients, preparation methods and cooking techniques further confound the subject of the origin of spoonbread. English cooks make Yorkshire pudding, which predates spoonbread by many years. This flour batter also may be a predecessor of the cornmeal-based recipes.
Classic spoonbread recipes require cornmeal, eggs, butter and milk. The proportions of these ingredients vary according to the recipe’s source. There are many variations on this classic dish, including the addition of creamed corn. Modernized, updated versions use polenta, grits or even masa, a fine corn flour from Mexican cuisine. The dish also requires a leavening agent such as baking powder or baking soda.
Spoonbread gets its distinct texture from the cooking techniques one uses with the ingredients. First, one must cook the cornmeal in the liquid on the stovetop. After that step has been completed, the eggs are added. When the mixture is transferred to an oven to finish cooking, it rises while baking and forms a crust. The interior of the finished product will be firm but softer than traditional cornbread.
Variations on the classic recipe are almost as numerous as cooks. Some recipes add fruit and include sugar to create a rustic dessert. Savory recipes use herbs, onions and mushrooms to produce a food that resembles cornbread dressing. One can even make spoonbread with vegetables such as sweet potatoes, creating something akin to the familiar sweet potato pone or soufflé that is common to the American South. Ham, bacon and cheese also have found their way into some recipes.
Every region of the world in which the dish has been adopted has managed to revise the classic spoonbread recipe to incorporate familiar or local ingredients. One can make a healthier version with olive oil instead of butter and use egg whites instead of whole eggs. Skim milk will retain nutrients such as calcium without sacrificing flavor.
@julies - It sounds like I need to to through some of my cookbooks and find a good recipe for spoon bread! I think it would make a great complement to a chili supper. You think of pudding and spoon as a dessert, so I am trying to imagine what the taste and texture of spoon bread would be like.
I am always looking for new things to try and think I will put this on my list.
I have seen spoon bread in several recipe books, but never really paid much attention to what it was. I like cornbread, but so many times it is so dry, so this sounds like a wonderful alternative. I imagine you could get as creative as you wish with the ingredients you would add to it. If you were making it to go along with breakfast, it would be wonderful to add some bacon and cheese.
It is kind of hard to imagine eating bread with a spoon, but certainly worth a try!