SLOW COOKER CORN BREAD : Pan de Elote
Lightly sweetened with piloncillo sugar, corn bread is a favorite festival food in northern Mexico, where the batter is cooked in small cast-iron pans that are greased with plenty of sweet butter. Serve with more butter and a sprinkle of crushed piloncillo for a sweet treat, or offer it as a side dish to help temper the heat of a spicy guisado or entrée. This recipe, like that of all the cooks I spoke to, uses commercially available pancake mix. When I adapted the recipe to the slow cooker I tried using a homemade pancake mix, but it just didn’t work as well.
½ cup salted butter
⅔ cup crushed piloncillo sugar or dark brown sugar
3 cups fresh corn kernels
1 cup water
2½ cups dry pancake mix
Rub the bottom and sides of a 5-quart slow cooker with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Cut a piece of aluminum foil and line the bottom of the slow cooker, pressing it smoothly into the corners and halfway up the sides. Butter the foil with another 1 tablespoon of the butter.
Place the sugar in a heavy plastic bag and pulverize with a small cast-iron pan or wooden mallet. Add the crushed sugar to a blender along with the corn and water and pulse until just combined, leaving some chunks of sugar. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the pancake mix. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter and stir into the batter.
Spoon the batter into the slow cooker. Drape a length of paper towel or a linen kitchen towel tightly across the cooker—this will absorb condensation that may form and drip onto the surface of the cornbread. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or on high for 1½ to 2 hours,
until the sides are well browned and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
• Stir in 1 cup of any combination of fresh corn kernels, diced onions, minced jalapeños, or grated cheese just before spooning the batter into the slow cooker.
• Add 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon to the batter, and sprinkle the top with ¼ cup pulverized piloncillo.
• For a dramatic presentation, instead of using aluminum foil, you can line the slow cooker with dried corn husks that have been cleaned and soaked. The golden bread set in a corona of corn husks looks terrific on a holiday table or buffet.