the year. It is a glorious time when the long scorching days of summer slowly yield to the reprieving crispness of chilly nights that linger; there is just something about autumn that brings me a sense of joy. Autumn in many parts of the world, signals a final push to bring in late harvests of apples, corn, cranberries, grapes, nuts, olives, pears and pomegranates, before the freezing somber grey skies of winter lays its blankets of stark white snow upon the northern hemisphere. Maybe I love autumn thanks to its cooler days, of which makes it the welcome herald of what I like to refer to as: baking season!
Just by looking at this beautiful photo, for me, it visually captures a stunning display of autumn's splendor, but it also serves to remind me that there is a severe lack of this sort of outdoor autumnal grandeur in my neck of the woods. Yes, autumn may be in full swing according to my calendar, but not in appearance. Outside my window, all I see is Southern California's dismal excuse for an autumnal show case. We go from lush greenery to sickly yellowish brown around here. I truly miss this leafy visual cue signalling autumn's fiery presence that I experienced as a young girl growing up in the great states of Washington, Oregon, and Texas.
But SoCal's lack luster fall season would be considered by many, to be an acceptable and minor sacrifice in order to avoid the cold snowy winters experienced by the northern parts of our nation, most of which happen to enjoy glorious fall colored foliage. As a veteran of many long and cold snowy northern winters, I whole heartily embrace the reality that snow is much nicer to visit, than to live in. Even so, it would be nice to walk outside my cozy abode and be greeted with a cheery wave of autumn colored leaves from our 1950's suburban neighborhood canopy, albeit as sparse as it has become, due to our trees reaching their silver maple quinquagenarian life span.
All this pondering brings me to the conclusion that I must accept the fact that one of my favorite times of the year will come and go without much ado in the outdoor visual display department. Yes, I can still enjoy the chilly nip of the dawn, and the crisp evening air scented by smokey wisps from the hearth's warm glow. However, even though the trees of So. Cal don't display the fall color I crave; that doesn't mean my oven can't crank out a vivid display of pigmented autumnal splendor as well as the delicious homey scents they provide.
Let's see, there's the fiery crimson of red velvet cake, and rich ruby red of cranberries bejeweling quick breads to behold.
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. yellow corn meal
2/3 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Sift together and set aside.
1 1/4 c. milk
1/3 c. oil
3 Tbsp. melted butter
whisk until eggs are well mixed
Preheat oven to 350 F and place oven rack in center of oven. If you are making muffins, then place one rack at the upper third and the other at the middle position of oven.
Add wet ingredients into the dry and mix with a whisk just until combined, do not over mix. If you prefer less sugar, the reduce to 1/2 c. but no lower than 1/3 c.
Pour mixture into well greased 9" cast iron skillet, muffin tins, 5" x 9" loaf pan, or an 8" square baking pan.
Bake at 350F until it springs back to the touch, or until an inserted cake tester comes out with moist crumbs, rotating pan half way through baking. Do not over bake! If you are making a double batch of this recipe, or muffins, then midway through baking, switch pans positions in the oven (upper rack to middle, and middle to upper), and rotate pans a half turn to ensure even baking.
Baking times will vary with type of baking pan used and your oven's quirks:
cast iron skillet - about 25 to 30 minutes
muffin tins - 15 to 20 minutes
loaf pan - 35 to 45 minutes
8" square pan - 30 to 35 minutes
Cast Iron: Be sure to remove any remaining slices of corn bread from a cast iron pan, as the cast iron will discolor and impart an iron taste to the corn bread.
Muffins: Preheat your oven to 325F and then crank it up to 350F when you put the pans into the oven, this technique will help achieve that desired dome effect.