Recipe Review: Firecracker Cornbread & Blackberry Dumplings

19 Jul

You can say that I’m in a New Orleans state of mind at the moment.  This week’s recipe reviews fall into that category: Firecracker Cornbread from 101 Cookbooks and Cajun Blackberry Dumplings from NOLA’s amazing radio station, WWOZ.  I even made homemade red beans and rice tonight (as it is both Monday and I’m doing my laundry) to accompany the cornbread.  I made the blackberry dumplings over this past weekend.  The red bean recipe I used was the one on Camellia’s Red Kidney Bean package and was delish (although a bit blandish — you may want to add dashes of Louisiana hot sauce to this dish and don’t let it boil down too much or you will have a rather dry texture).


Firecracker Cornbread




3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (all-purpose works fine)
3/4 cup instant cornmeal (or instant polenta) or fine-grain cornmeal
1/4 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder (regular is also fine)
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups corn, fresh (or at room temperature if previously frozen)

more butter for drizzling (optional)




Preheat your oven to 350F degrees, with a rack in the middle.


Just before you make the batter, in a small saucepan, melt the butter, stir in the red pepper flakes, and pour into a 9-inch pie tin (I have an enameled cast-iron one that is perfect) or equivalent baking dish. Place in the hot oven.


In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and corn. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until just combined.



Now very carefully remove the hot pan with butter from the oven. Fill it with the cornbread batter, pushing the batter out to the sides if needed.


Don't be alarmed at the butter rising to the surface!


Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until the edges are golden and the center is just set. Remove and drizzle with a bit of melted butter (optional).


Cornbread with a Kick!


Outcome: This is a quick and easy alternative to boxed cornbread mixes (i.e. Jiffy, which is the gold standard of cornbread mixes).  It’s also considerably less salty and involves “real” ingredients as opposed to processed foods, which is all something that appeals to me as I am trying to be a healthier eater/cook.  I really admire the blending of flavors and the moistness of this bread mix and the red pepper helps to give it a little kick.  Being from the South, I prefer spicier dishes and would probably add a little more red pepper the next go round, but if you have a milder palate, the amount in this recipe should suffice.  This recipe is one I’ll make again and again to go alongside my fall soups and stews.


Cajun Blackberry Dumplings



4 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup whole milk
2 large whole eggs, well beaten
3 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
4 cups bottled water
1 1/2 quarts blackberries
whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving




In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, milk, eggs 1 cup sugar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to liquid ingredients and stir, but do not over-mix.


This batter is like glue!


When dumpling batter is ready, combine water, 2 1/2 cups sugar, and blackberries in a large skillet. Cook fruit over a medium heat until mixture thickens. Drop dumpling batter by heaping teaspoonfuls into blackberry sauce mixture in skillet. Cover and cook until dumplings rise.


Dumpling goo


Test them with a fork to see if they are done. When a fork inserted into dumplings come out clean, remove them from the skillet and continue with the remaining batter.  Serve warm right out of the skillet with the blackberry sauce mixture ladled over. Top each dish with rich dollops of whipped cream or ice cream.


Outcome: I had high hopes for the recipe.  I love blackberries and the idea of a blackberry “dumpling” sounded enticing.  However, this recipe is a joke.  I followed the recipe exactly but I felt that there were a lot of holes in the method.  For one, the recipe doesn’t give cooking times and it took literally over an hour for the blackberry mixture to thicken (actually, it bordered on an hour and a half).  Second, the blackberries tried to rise — I coaxed and cajoled for quite a while — but sadly they remained pasty goo blobs in what was quickly becoming burnt berry sauce.  In the end, I had to abandon this dish, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever done before.  My husband and I made this (or tried to, at least) for a weekend breakfast, but by the end of it it was past noon (we’re late sleepers, but this still took almost 2 hours) and our stomachs were growling like crazy.  I think my husband put it succinctly when he said that you need to pack a lunch to make this dish.  This is one I promptly removed from my recipe box.  It’s not even worth a second try.


At least we had our cat Binx to keep us company in the kitchen:


Are you going to eat that butter? What about the eggs, then? The milk?

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