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Barrel & Ashes hoe cake

Time45 minutes
YieldsMakes 3 to 4 cakes
Barrel & Ashes hoe cake
(Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times )
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If you’ve spent much time at Barrel & Ashes, the Studio City barbecue joint that’s basically a collection of high tables and bar seating around an open kitchen, at some point you’ll have developed an obsession with its hoe cakes. These are not so much the hoe cakes of the traditional South — the name possibly comes from the slavery-era practice of baking flat rounds of cornmeal batter on a hoe blade heated in a fire — but rich discs of butter-laden cornmeal cakes fired in small cast iron pans. Their specific invention was a collaboration between chefs Michael Kahikina and Tim Hollingsworth, who wanted to elevate the classic barbecue-friendly dish.

So they decided to bake corn bread to order, giving each diner a small griddle hot from that oven the restaurant is built around. To play up the savory-sweet aspect of the dish, they douse the hot cakes with maple butter — a lot of it — as well as a hefty sprinkle of green onions and coarse salt. The results are extremely addictive, the cakes loaded with the butter it absorbs on contact, both edges and underside crusted a very dark brown. There’s reason the dish has been on the menu since the restaurant first opened, and that on the weekends during brunch, the little cast iron pans arrive with variations: topped with fried eggs and bacon, with chile and cheddar, and with bananas and chocolate. Or just get another order of the original, for which we got the recipe.

1

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then fold in the clarified butter. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend to fully incorporate the ingredients.

2

Heat a small (5- to 6-inch) cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add a small pat of butter to the pan, swirling the pan until the butter is melted and bubbly. Spoon in about 3/4 cup batter, spreading the batter so it reaches the edges of the pan in an even layer.

3

Cook the batter in the pan until the bottom forms a crust and the batter begins to bubble around the edges, about 2 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the cake is almost set but jiggles slightly in the center, 2 to 3 minutes.

4

Return the pan to the stove-top and flip the cake over in the pan. Continue cooking over medium-high heat until the cake is set and a crust has formed on the bottom of the cake, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

5

Spread 2 to 4 tablespoons maple butter over the cake, sprinkle over a little coarse sea salt and garnish with green onion. Serve immediately.

Adapted from a recipe from Barrel & Ashes. To make maple butter: beat maple syrup to taste into softened butter until fully incorporated.