Maple Bacon Cornbread

I definitely have an unhealthy obsession with cornbread. There’s something about the sweet, crumbly, yellow bread, warm and covered in melting butter that just hits all the right buttons. But not all cornbread is created equal, oh no. I’ve had many a disappointing pieces of cornbread: dry, not sweet enough, grainy texture, too dense, etc, etc.  Not long ago I went on a mission to create a cornbread recipe that makes cornbread just the way I like it: sweet, buttery, a bit of crunch on the outside, and a little crumbly. After numerous tests, variations, and overeating, I’m proud to say that not only did I get the recipe perfect, I took it one step further: to breakfast. I love cornbread with fried eggs – dipped in runny yolk, it is heaven. Since I already sweeten it with cornbread, I thought, why not put bacon in it as well. Friends, I’m not gonna lie – it’s a home run. The salty chew of the bacon mixed with the buttery sweet of the cornbread is nothing short of miraculous… but I really had to make sure. When I want to seriously test a recipe, I give it to my roommate. More than once I have made a dish that my roommate normally doesn’t like eating, but when she tastes my version, she freaks out about it. I call it the roommate test. Clever, I know. This cornbread passed the test with flying colors – she is a believer, and I promise you will be too.

As a heads up, you should know that the only way to make cornbread is in a cast iron skillet. If you don’t have one, I can’t recommend getting one more highly. I get such use out of mine – it fries and browns like nothing else. Honestly, even if you only use it to make cornbread, it’s still worth it – nothing else will give you that light crisp on the exterior. The recipe may seem a little involved, but once you get into it, you’ll see it’s really a cinch to put together. Decadent? Yes. Starving artist? Absolutely.

Maple Bacon Cornbread (Recipe PDF)

Gingerbread Waffles

I know very few people who don’t love a good waffle. I love the classic, but, you know me: traditional is rarely good enough for the starving artist. I am obsessed with gingerbread, so I had the idea to combine it with my waffle batter – quite the good idea if I do say so myself. And my guest Tim, who had his birthday yesterday, heartily agreed that it made for a fantastic birthday breakfast. This one is easy to pull off for me since I always have baking basics (flour, sugar, powder, soda, butter) in my kitchen, not to mention all the spices. All I need to buy is buttermilk and eggs and I have breakfast for three (or as many as five). I also had some sausage leftover from my Impromptu Comfort Food recipe I posted a few days ago, so I just fried those up in a skillet and added some maple syrup in at the end for a quick and easy breakfast sausage. So delicious – a must-try.

Now I have to tell you that this batch of waffles has a special ingredient: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter. My roommate bought a jar for her parents. I saw it sitting on the table while I was assembling the waffle batter and thought… yeah, this needs to happen. If you haven’t tried cookie butter yet, run, don’t walk, to your nearest Trader Joe’s and pick some up. It’s the most divine combination of gingerbread and cookie, melded into this spread that still has a light crunch to it. I warn you it is VERY dangerous stuff – I have mindlessly housed half a jar on more than one occasion. At 90 calories per tablespoon, it is no small indulgence. Yikes. You will likely be getting many more recipes that employ this heavenly concoction. For this one, not only can you put it in the batter, but if you’re feeling exceptionally decadent, you can even put it on top. Gasp! Personally, I stick to the tradition whipped butter and syrup. If you read my post “Griddled Amazingness“, you’ll know all about my feelings on both of those toppings.

What’s that? You thought waffles were too involved for the starving artist? Oh sweetie, just you wait – I do it all. Whether I’m whipping together waffles for friends or baking a decadent treat for a party, I’m always looking for the same traits: simple, resourceful, affordable (mostly), and a little out of the ordinary. And honestly, the joy and warmth that comes with serving fresh hot waffles (or any warm baked good) to your loved ones is always worth it, regardless of price.

I am going to continue the breakfast theme for the rest of the week, so check back in to see what I get up to. What do you put in your waffles?

Gingerbread Waffles (Recipe PDF)

Griddled Amazingness

“Sow Your Oats” pancakes

Nothing says brunch like a steaming pile of flapjacks (I love the word “flapjack.” it makes me giggle… flapjack… heehee). I know few people who can resist the call of those light, fluffy, browned discs of joy, particularly hungover at 11am on a Sunday. And let’s be honest, it is classic starving artist food – cheap, filling, and just as easily acquired at 2am as 2pm on any given day. But not just any pancakes will do. Oh no. I take my pancakes seriously. Since I can make killer pancakes at home, if I’m going to go out and spend money on someone else’s, they better be so good that I would slap a baby to get them. Before I will consider ordering pancakes at a restaurant, there are three things I look for:

  1. Whipped butter. None of those foil-wrapped packets. Airy, spreadable butter is crucial for complete pancake coverage. Butter in every bite!
  2. Real maple syrup. You already know my feelings on maple syrup – 100% pure is the only option. The ideal is a restaurant that doesn’t charge you extra for it; then you know they are serious.
  3. Creative pancake options.  While it’s true that you’re only as good as your classic buttermilk recipe, nothing entices me more than creativity. Offer some outrageous pancake option that I HAVE to order because I won’t find it anywhere else. To me, if the restaurant is confident with their recipe, what better way to show it off than all kinds of crazy variations.

So far I have discovered one place in Los Angeles that meets all three of my criteria and that is the Griddle Cafe on Fairfax and Sunset. All of their pancakes are plate-sized monstrosities. They are most famous for their Red Velvet variety, topped with a cream cheese frosting swirl. Divine. Pictured above are the “Sow Your Oats”, which are oatmeal, honey, and cinnamon. Hearty and delicious – totally my thing. I’ve also sampled “Yellow Brick Road” – butterscotch, caramel, and walnuts. Sinfully rich. And guess what: at every single table there is a bottle of pure Vermont maple syrup. Clearly they are trying to get into my pants. The best part? The pancakes are all under $10. Sow Your Oats was $7.95 for a stack of three (there are two more under there!!). I ate maybe a quarter of the plate and took the rest home for two more meals. Starving artist heaven.

While we all love weekend brunch, you’re guaranteed to wait at least 45 minutes on any Saturday or Sunday. Madhouse. Totally worth it, of course, but if you can swing it, I would recommend a weekday after 10am. Same great food, but much more chill. Whenever you decide to go, you are guaranteed a phenomenal pancake experience.

The Griddle Cafe
7916 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles 90046
www.thegriddlecafe.com