I once knew someone who made it her life mission to make the perfect apple pie. She recorded the minutiae of her quest in a log--every apple type was graded on texture, taste, firmness, colour when cooked. She spent ages trying to come up with the perfect combination of fruit, sugars and spices. I think she recorded various pastries, but in the end settled on a family recipe. As far as I know, she's still searching for that perfect-to-her pie.
I have similar quests: finding decent shop-bought goodies -- chili pepper sauces, hot chocolate mixes, vanilla extracts; restaurant fare worth the price -- eggs Benedict, steak, Caesar salad, or creating something that pleases my palate -- cream cheese icing, creamy and fruity ice creams, hamburgers.
I never look for "perfection" as by their very nature, such Diogenes-worthy quests are Mercurial, subjective and prone to lead me round the bend. No, I simply want something that I can happily and reliably find (in shops) or put together with a degree of effort that's in keeping with the dish.
One of these Grails is cornbread.
When I was little, My Dear Little Mummy made a cornbread that I still remember. It was soft and sweet with a not-too grainy texture. A few years ago I asked her how to make it. She couldn't remember. It may have been from a clipping or one of her books (I've not found it) or it could have been one of her many made up concoctions that can't be duplicated.
Every few months I pick up the gauntlet and search for and try a new recipe. Most have been sadly disappointing--too dry, too heavy, too sour, too scungy.
I found one that was on the right track (it was a bit too wet and too sweet and had a slightly wrong aftertaste)--of all places it was the kind my office cafeteria makes when they serve chilli. I went so far as to ask for the recipe, knowing they'd given other recipes out: silence. Dead silence. That's when I decided they must have been making it from a box...
Two months ago I trawled the web and found this recipe. I rarely go into a recipe with a drudgery-induced "Recipe trial 187: well, it can't be worse than the others" mentality--that, in itself, is a recipe for disappointment.
But I now blush to say I was rather blasé about it.
It's sweet and soft and definitely not gritty...and it comes together in no time whatsoever. Um...I think I no longer have to search for a cornbread recipe that makes me happy. Very happy.
I first made it to go with ribs I made for the exbf's birthday in March, and I've since made it twice more. This latest time as muffins, with the addition of several forkfuls of pickled pepper rings, chopped. I'll probably keep playing with it--Monterey Jack cheese, basil, sun dried tomatoes...I'm going have fun with this one