Recipe: Kentucky Batter Bread (1904)

Kentucky Batter Bread, Photo: Eric Colleary

Batter breads have long been the staple bread of the American kitchen. With basic ingredients and no ‘rise-time,’ batter breads or quick-breads were originally made in cast iron pans over hot coals.

Ingredients for Kentucky Batter Bread, Photo: Eric CollearyThis recipe for Kentucky Batter Bread – from Minnie Fox’s 1904 Blue Grass Cookbook – is a classic example of the genre. Corn meal would be the most common choice here, but other meals could be substituted based on what was most readily available. Notice there is no leavening agent here – not even baking soda. This is an old recipe – likely pre-dating Fox’s cookbook by at least fifty years, if not significantly longer.

Not everything that I make for this site is delicious and praiseworthy. I have to admit, this humble recipe was not the most exciting. Having grown up on the tastiness that comes in those 50 cent blue boxes of Jiffy corn bread mix, I’m used to a sweeter, lighter loaf. This is most certainly more dense and bland. On taking his first bite, my friend Joe managed to perfectly describe this recipe in words. “It’s not bad,” he remarked. “It’s not great either. It sort of just is.”

I made this to go along with the Senate Bean Soup, but it failed to absorb the rich flavors of the broth. Rather than serving it in a supporting role to a meal, I’d recommend topping it with honey, sweet salted butter, or some fruit preserves for a modest breakfast or brunch. It definitely needs a bit of help to pick it up out of the flavor doldrums.

Also, once you’ve gotten the batter together, try beating it with a balloon whisk. Pulling air into it will ultimately help make the bread a bit lighter.

My notes are in [brackets].

The Recipe

1 pint meal [2 cups]
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter
[Sweet Milk, about 1/3 cup]

Make a thin batter with sweet milk. Pour in a [greased] baking-dish and bake 3/4 of an hour, or till it is a rich brown. [I went for 325 degrees for about half an hour]

Add Melted Butter to Meal, Photo: Eric CollearyAdd Eggs to Meal, Photo: Eric Colleary
Combine butter and meal, Photo: Eric CollearyBatter for Kentucky Batter Bread
Kentucky Batter Bread in the Oven, Photo: Eric CollearyKentucky Batter Bread, Photo: Eric Colleary