I love going to discount/used bookstores. When I younger, my mom would take us downtown for weekly trips to the public library and there was a discount bookstore in the basement called The Book Burrow where you could buy books for literal pocket change. It was a dim place with exposed water/gas pipes, stained ceilings, and flickering lights. It had the unmistakable ‘old book smell’ that I will never forget.
And I loved going. LOVED it.
This was in a time when dial-up internet was still a thing, and the Google we know now really…wasn’t. (Shout out to the people who still remember what Netscape Navigator was) We didn’t have access to either. So if I had a school assignment that required some outside research, pictures or info my mom would just take us to the public library to either check out books or to the Book Burrow to buy cheap cooks or old National Geographic issues. The YA section was filled with towers of books, mostly different series like Sweet Valley High, which I loved. (Give me a break; I was a 90’s kid and an identical twin named Jessica at that.) I could, and sometimes did, stay in that corner reading and picking out books to buy for hours.
Those memories I have of hte Book Burrow have carried over into my adulthood to where I still love going to discount/used bookstores. Of course now I’m not looking for a book on Zambia for my 5th grade presentation project. I’ve also put my Sweet Valley High phase behind me–I’m actually trying to forget it ever happened. Nowadays when I stop and look in a discount bookstore, I will go straight to one section.
I bet y’all can guess which one it is.
The particularly great thing about the cookbook section of a discount section is that most of the books in it are going to be very old; some maybe even vintage. If you’re VERY lucky you can find the ‘Church cookbooks’ that are literally collated recipes from elderly church ladies (mostly Southern) that share the foods they make for their families and church potlucks. I’ve also seen huge, thick baking books with hundreds of recipes int hem that would normally be thirty or forty dollars, only cost as little as five in a discount bookstore.
It’s ridiculous how excited I get when I come across a find like that.
I was downtown a while ago and lo and behold: there was a discount bookstore adjoining the parking garage I was parked in. The cookbook section was right smack dab in the front window, guys.
Do you REALLY think I could just walk by without even going in to look? Tuh. Remember I said you could find those thick baking collection books for practically pennies? I found one at that discount bookstore in the parking garage. It was one of the first ones I picked up and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was mine. I flipped through the pages on the way home, already excited to test one of the recipes out.
This recipe in its original form needed some adjustments. But once I made them, it resulted in a super tasty loaf. We’ve already established that I will legit look for a way to throw some cornmeal into ANYTHING and this was a very good something to throw it in. I thought the construction was not only simple, but pretty to look at it. The shape is made by layering balls of the dough on top of one another in a tube pan so that when it bakes, it forms ‘bubbles’ across the top. You can use the bubbles to tear off chunks of the bread, or cut it into thick slices like I did.
The loaf itself is soft, though the cornmeal gives it a gritty texture and sweetness that I personally love. It’s delicious smeared with jelly and butter, but I think it’d be excellent as the base for French toast as well. If you don’t have a tube pan, this would work just fine in loaf pans and cake pans too.
So, what have we learned? #1, don’t sleep on discount bookstores. They’re lit. #2 You should make this bread. That’s all… for today anyway.
Corn Bubble Bread
Recipe Adapted from “Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads”
- 3-5 cups bread flour, divided
- 2 tablespoons of sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon seasoning salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 2 packages/envelopes active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons shortening
- 1 egg, beaten
In a large bowl of a standing mixer, combine 2 cups of the flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar, the salt, pepper and cornmeal. Stir together to combine, then set aside.
In a small saucepan combine the warm water, milk and shortening. Allow to heat over the stove until warm to the touch. (Around 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit) Sprinkle the yeast on top, then sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of white sugar on top of that. Allow yeast to proof, about 10 minutes until frothy on top.
Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and use the dough hook to beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add an additional cup of flour to the dough to thicken it and continue to beat at medium high speed. Turn mixer off, then add additional flour as needed to where it is a rough mass that can be worked with your hands.
Sprinkle a clean surface with flour, then turn dough out onto it. Knead with a strong push-pull action, about 8 minutes. Place back in the mixer and knead for an additional 8 minutes. It should feel smooth and elastic, and spring back under the touch.
Grease the mixing bowl, then place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Allow to proof until doubled in size, about 1 1/2- 2 hours.
Grease one 10” tube pan. Sprinkle your work surface with flour and turn dough out onto it. Punch dough down a few times to deflate air bubbles. Use a bench scraper or a sharp knife to divide into 32 equal pieces; first 2, then 4, then 8, then 16, then 32. Roll each of the 32 pieces into balls, then arrange the balls into 2 layers in the bottom of the tube pan. Cover with plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Allow to proof until doubled in size, about 1 1/2- 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375°. Beat the egg in a small bowl with a fork. Brush over the top of the dough balls. Place the tub pan on a half sheet pan, then bake in the oven until golden brown and hollow on the bottom, about 40-45 minutes. (It browns/bakes fast, so check it early and cover if browning too quickly. Bread is done at 190° inner temp.) Allow to cool for about 15 minutes on a wire rack.