A few months ago, I mentioned my love for Crescent Dragonwagon, a self-professed “closet vegetarian” for years who finally outed herself in her wonderful cookbooks.  She’s done a lot to influence the way I think about food, and has much to do with my refusal to see vegetarianism as a limitation.

So imagine my surprise when I saw that she had commented on the entry!  She had her publishers send me a promo copy of her newest book, The Cornbread Gospels, and while I think it is indeed possible to beat a single food item into the ground, I trust Crescent to make anything well.  I finally cracked it open last week, to make her Cornmeal-Oatmeal Cranberry-Orange Loaf.  The bread itself was definitely above average, cakey and moist and everything it should be in Crescent’s magical kitchen, but I was astonished to see that the recipe called for orange zest without making use of the orange juice that would be left over!

Well, I said to myself, we’ll just fix that.

So I made this glaze and holy cannoli, it’s amazing.  I understand that part of the point of having a food blog is to toot one’s own horn, and I try not to do that too much, but, really, I am a GENIUS.  I had my doubts when this stuff first started heating up on the stove – the five-spice powder + Cointreau was a bit overpowering – but once it started to thicken, any sharpness mellowed and I considered buying a funnel so that I could just pour it directly down my throat.  That method, however, would neglect the cornbread itself, with which this goes brilliantly.  I’ll mention that all of the measurements for the glaze should end with “or so”, since I added a bit of this and a sprinkle of that. All raves aside, I can say no more other than that you really need to drop whatever you’re doing and make this.  You know, now.

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Cranberry-Orange Cornbread with Five-Spice Glaze
adapted, and in some cases, directly copied, from a recipe by Crescent Dragonwagon

vegetable oil cooking spray
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/3 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk (I used half milk and half yogurt)
finely grated zest of 1 orange – save the juice!
1 cup cranberries, washed, picked over, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat an 8″x8″ pan with oil. Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. In a separate bowl whisk together eggs, oil, buttermilk, and orange zest. In a third bowl combine cranberries, pecans, and oatmeal. Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour mixture over them, and toss well.

Quickly combine flour mixture and egg mixture, using as few strokes as possible. Gently stir in the cranberry mixture. The batter should be stiff. Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake 45-55 minutes. Check two-thirds of the way through the baking period; if the loaves are browning excessively, tent them loosely with foil.

Let the baked bread cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then run a thin knife around the edge of the pan and turn the loaf out. Drizzle with glaze: in a saucepan, combine…

1/2 cup powdered raw sugar (I used Mexican sugar)
juice from the orange you zested
a splash of Cointreau
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until reduced to a thick glaze. (This will go fast – watch it!) Pour it on, baby.

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