Published November 1, 1996.
For light, tender spoon bread, choose finely ground cornmeal and use beaten egg whites instead of baking powder for lift.
As with many classic dishes, ingredients and cooking techniques vary enormously from recipe to recipe. Because it's easy for the initial mush to turn out lumpy, we started by figuring out the best way to make a smooth corn mush.
To make a spoon bread, you must first whisk cornmeal into a simmering liquid and let it thicken into a "mush," as though you were cooking oatmeal or farina. To the cooled mush you add eggs, salt, butter, and other ingredients. The mixture is poured into a baking dish and baked. The resulting dish should be light as air, with a tender, rich crumb.
The act of stirring cornmeal into simmering milk can be tricky; if you don't do it properly, the meal can separate from the liquid and turn into a bunch of lumps rather than a smooth mush. You've got to start whisking like crazy and not stop until the mush is thickened, two to four minutes. It's not much of a time investment when you consider the alternative: 20 to 30 minutes of gentle stirring in a double boiler. The oldest recipes for spoon bread call for whole eggs, not separated, but we found that eggs separated and beaten produced a light, high soufflé. You can use yellow or white cornmeal; the white will produce a bread with a slightly milder flavor. More important is to use finely ground cornmeal, which produces a considerably smoother texture than coarse-ground meal.list of recipes