To recreate Louisa Macculloch’s recipe for batter bread for the modern kitchen has proven to be a challenge. The ingredient list sounded simple enough—flour, corn meal, salt, eggs, and milk, but the texture and flavor of the resulting batter bread from the recipe below had disappointing results. Therefore, there will be a Batter Bread Recipe, Part 2 after some additional research and experimentation that addresses the challenges of this “simple” recipe.
One of the recipe’s challenges is the ingredient called “rich milk.” Louisa Macculloch’s recipes have listed milk, sour milk, and sweet milk, but this is one of the first recipes that lists rich milk. Rich milk could refer to condensed milk, but this product only became available in the 1850s and 1860s, about 10 years after Mrs. Macculloch recorded her recipe. Another possibility is that rich milk refers to the butterfat that rises to the top of unhomogenized milk. This thin layer of cream is also called “top milk” in older recipes.
A second challenge in updating this recipe is the number of eggs that should be used. Eggs in 1849 were often smaller than the commercially farmed eggs we buy today. The third challenge in recreating this recipe has to do with the temperature of the modern oven since the recipe refers to a “quick oven.” Finally, we wonder if our negative perception of the flavor of this batter bread is due to changes in taste, to regional differences, or to the differences between ingredients we use today versus ingredients used historically. There is debate about whether sugar is an ingredient in cornbread.
Watch for an improved Batter Bread recipe, Part 2, coming soon.
This Batter Bread recipe is one of only six marked in the handwritten cookbook with the date February 2, 1849 and initialed GMM. Having a recipe that is dated is helpful but more family research will need to be done to determine which member of the Macculloch-Miller family the initials, GMM, refer to.
Original Recipe Batter Bread Feb. 2d 1849, GMM
Take six spoons full of flour and three of corn meal, with a little salt; sift them, and make a thin batter with four eggs and a sufficient quantity of rich milk; bake it in little tin moulds in a quick oven.
Adapted Recipe: Batter Bread, Part 1—The 1st Attempt
¾ cup flour
½ cup corn meal
¼ tsp. salt
1/3 cup milk (to recreate “rich milk” use 50% whole milk and 50% light cream)
Preheat oven at 400 degrees. Sift flour, corn meal and salt together in a bowl. Add eggs and milk. Stir until combined. Grease small muffin tin. Bake for 6-8 minutes (for small muffins) or until toothpick comes out dry. Makes 18 small muffins.
For the debate about the use of sugar in cornbread recipes, visit: https://www.seriouseats.com/why-southern-cornbread-shouldnt-have-sugar
Topic: Munchie Monday
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