Last week, we promised a side dish that would perfectly complement our country comfort plate, and here it is. If you have a dutch oven and an extra hour or so to burn, you can have sunny, seriously seasoned hush puppies without the hassle of frying. They take very little effort, cake flour gives them a bit of fluff on the inside, and baking them in a dutch oven produces a satisfying, lightly chewy crust that makes these tough to put down.
Baked Yeast Hush Puppies
yields 1 dozen
6 TBSP lukewarm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup grated yellow onion, juices included (or, process the onion into a chunky pulp in a food processor)
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup cake flour
1 tsp fine sea or kosher salt
1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1/8 tsp cayenne
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Combine water, yeast, oil, sugar, and onion in a mixing bowl. Whisk together flours, salt, and all seasoning. Add dry ingredients to wet and beat until very well combined. Form into a rough, shaggy ball. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until a bit puffed, about an hour (up to two hours if your kitchen is cold).
Place a dutch oven with the cover inside your oven and preheat to 400.
Sprinkle a little cornmeal over the top of the dough and dust a clean work surface. With dampened hands, fold the dough over itself a few times. The dough will be quite wet, but will stick more to itself than it does to you. (If you're having trouble working with it, wet your hands again. If it’s still unwieldy, add a bit more flour.) Form the dough into 12 balls, placing them on the floured surface as you work. Sprinkle a little more cornmeal over the tops and cover again. Let rest for 30 minutes (up to an hour in a cold room).
Carefully transfer the dough balls to the hot dutch oven, placing them an inch apart. Replace the lid and bake 12 minutes. Remove the lid, bake another 3 minutes, and transfer to a wire rack to cool. (Note: we used a 5-qt dutch oven that required us to bake these in two batches. If you need to do the same, instructions do not vary for the second batch.)