Bakers' Dozens: Corn Desserts
I am always up for a challenge. That's exactly why I chose corn as a focus. Baking with something other than fruit, chocolate or the usual sweet ingredients may be new to some and old hat to others.
Let's talk about corn. It contains natural sweetener, has a buttery and sometimes creamy texture, and is seasonal and local for many of us, even just picked! Sounds like the perfect dessert ingredient.
My love for bread pudding gave me the perfect starting point. Here is a way to make a simple and totally unique corn flavor. Strip away all the husks and silks (give that job to the kids), and toss the kernels and cobs in cream with sugar, salt and vanilla. Simmer until all the sugar is melted and the corn is tender. Steep for 2 1/2 hours to infuse. Remove the cobs and the vanilla bean. In a blender or using a hand immersion blender, puree at high speed and then strain through a fine-mesh screen. Ta-da! You have just made delicious corn cream.
You can add it to your favorite bread pudding, creme brulee, budino or custard. Infusing anything into the cream, like freshly popped popcorn, will make the cream taste like popcorn.
Think of the cream as a blank canvas. The natural sweetness of the corn in the cream also makes for an amazing gelato, ice cream or even sherbet. Here’s another one: Take the flavored cream, temper egg yolks, add sugar and cook to nappe consistency (when it coats the back of a spoon) and you have an amazing corn base for gelato.
Growing up very close to southern New Jersey meant eating Silver Queen corn (the mack daddy of all corn), raw and right off the cob — it was that sweet!
My mom was not a good cook and especially bad at baking, but she would make killer corn muffins. Packaged cornbread mix and tons of fresh corn kernels made these babies sing. We would eat them all summer long. Sometimes we would frost them with cream cheese icing. If you haven't tried this, you must.
Cornbread typically is thought of as a savory addition to barbecues and tailgate parties. It’s a classic Tex-Mex sauce sopper-upper. I have a recipe for killer cornbread that is baked in tin cans or Mason jars. I call it chuck wagon cornbread. It can be that savory counterpoint for chili, or you can fold blueberries into it and serve it topped with salted butter pecan ice cream for dessert. The key ingredient in the cornbread is the dehydrated corn, ground to a powder. Add it in like flour. It transforms the cornbread into cornbread 4.0 by adding extra corn flavor.
It’s a game changer.
Pastry chef and cookbook author Hedy Goldsmith is a James Beard Award finalist for the nationally contested Outstanding Pastry Chef category. Her creations grace the menus of The Genuine Hospitality Group of restaurants, including flagship Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami. Her first cookbook, Baking Out Loud, was published by Clarkson Potter in 2012. Hedy has been featured in multiple national media outlets, including NBC's Today show, The New York Times and People magazine. She is in her fifth season of Cooking Channel’s Unique Sweets, and her new Food Network blog series, Bakers’ Dozens, appears monthly on FN Dish.