Thursday, October 6, 2011

Baked Nebraska: Not Just a Malapropism

Recently the "Frank & Ernest" cartoon strip mentioned "Baked Nebraska" as a malapropism. I laughed, and then, remembering that I had some pawpaws or "Nebraska Bananas" to use up, I concocted an actual recipe for Baked Nebraska.

It's not as rich as Baked Alaska (ice cream is optional). It features Nebraska products, but most of these products grow in most of the United States; Barbara Kingsolver and I can make it as a local food treat. The way I make it is, of course, gluten-free, but it doesn't have to be.

Ingredients

2 cups corn meal (as fine as possible, white if you can get good-quality plain white corn meal)

1 teaspoon baking powder, preferably Rumford's

Pinch salt

1 tablespoon corn oil

1 to 4 tablespoons corn syrup, or local molasses, local honey, or even sugar if that's all you can get

1 cup pawpaw pulp

About 1 cup water or milk

Method

1. Pour the tablespoon of oil into an 8 or 9-inch baking pan, preferably an iron skillet. Swirl to coat. Heat the oiled pan while preheating the oven to 400 and mixing the batter.

2. Peel, seed, and remove damaged spots from pawpaws until you have 1 cup of pulp. Mash it fairly smooth in the cup.

3. Combine the dry ingredients, including sugar if you have to use sugar. (Don't add too much sugar before assembling the dough. The sweetness of natural fruits varies.)

4. Quickly and lightly mix in pawpaws, syrup, water, and as much hot oil as runs out when you remove the baking pan from the hot oven. Taste the batter for sweetness and add sweetening if necessary.

5. Quickly dump the batter into the hot pan and return it to the oven. Allow 15-20 minutes before you start testing for doneness. It will be moist, even pudding-like, and may not bake evenly.

6. Scoop out portions. Top with ice cream, yogurt, Cool Whip, applesauce, apple butter, additional pawpaw pulp, or whatever you fancy.

Variations

Add a bit of cinnamon, ginger, or Chinese five-spice powder if you like.

Substitute bananas for some or all of the pawpaws...this becomes gluten-free banana bread.

Add nuts if you like the way they go with the flavor of pawpaws. My pick would be hazelnuts, which can also be grown in most of the United States, but are seldom available in U.S. farm markets.

Substitute crushed pineapple or papaya pulp for some or all of the pawpaws.

Use butter, and cream butter into the pawpaw pulp, if you like the taste of butter and have no concerns about weight or cholesterol.