Continuing this week's Cook the Book series, today's highlighted recipe from Crescent Dragonwagon's Cornbread Gospels is for George Washington's Favorite Corn Cakes. How do we know they're Washington's favorite? Dragonwagon cites Nelly Custis, Martha Washington's youngest granddaughter, who gave an account of the first president's morning routine, which included getting up before sunrise, reading and writing until 7 a.m. or so, and then breakfasting on three of these cakes, "swimming in butter and honey."
- 2 cups stone-ground white cornmeal
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups lukewarm water
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- Mild vegetable oil, for greasing the griddle
- Honey and butter, for serving (optional)
The evening before, combine 1 cup of the cornmeal, 1 1/2 cups of the lukewarm water, and the yeast in a medium-size nonreactive bowl. Whisk well; the mixture will be thin. Cover bowl tightly; let sit out overnight in a warm place.
The next morning, whisk in the remaining 1 cup cornmeal, the salt, and the egg. Re-cover the bowl; let it stand 15 to 20 minutes (allowing the just-added cornmeal to absorb some of the liquid and soften a bit).
Check consistency; it should be close to a thin pancake batter, neither nearly liquid nor as thick as heavy cream. If need be, add a little more lukewarm water to achieve this.
Start heating a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Moisten a paper towel with vegetable oil. Once skillet is hot, rub its interior quickly but thoroughly with the oiled towel.
Serve with honey and butter, if desired.