Back From the Beach (The Sequel)

Cornbread and Pandebono

The deadpan look on the face of the TSA agent said: “Okay, now I really have seen everything.” In her defense, who could blame her? How often does she come across guys carrying bags of flour in their carry on luggage? She carefully swabbed the outside of the packages and let me go.

(Hint to travelers: when traveling with flour, take it out of your luggage, put it in the bucket, and run it through the scanner.)

(I ask you: how many travel blogs would you have had to look through to get advice for carrying flour on board a plane?)

And you ask: why am I traveling with flour? Can’t I get it at home? A reasonable question. The TSA agent asked it too.

I have enough key chains and refrigerator magnets. I do not need any more tchochkes, so when I travel my idea of a souvenir hunt usually involves a trip to the supermarket. I don’t always know what I want when I go, but I can be easily hypnotized by the sight of a colorful wrapper with foreign words.

During this year’s summer trip to a beach down south I actually went in search of something specific: Martha White. That’s not a person; it’s a brand of flour that is legendary down south. You just can’t find it up north, and I have been told that if you want to make really great biscuits, then Martha White is your gal—uh – flour.

Unfortunately the only Martha White flour I could find this trip was the self-rising cornmeal flour. But that’s okay: biscuits later, cornbread now.

While I was trolling the aisles, I also came across a whole section of South American foods, including items from Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. I am a big fan of Brazilian Pão de Queijo, a bread made with tapioca flour and cheese. Facing me in the aisle was a box, imported from Colombia, containing a mix for Pandebono. Pandebono is a type of bread made of corn flour, tapioca starch, cheese and eggs. Supposedly you eat them warm with Hot Chocolate. Naturally I couldn’t resist.

One bumpy ride with fastened seat belts later, I was in my kitchen mixing the Martha White cornbread. Cornbread can be a contentious issue amongst its devotees. Many southerners show disdain for northern cornbread. Maybe they have a point. The sweet yellow cornbread we serve up north is dense and moist like a dessert. Southerners prefer a more savory white cornbread, often baked in a roaring hot skilled with a bit if pre-heated fat.

I know that I am always banging the drum of scratch baking, but I am not mix averse, I am bad ingredient averse. As an example, let’s take the ubiquitous Jiffy mixes. One of the primary ingredients in their corn muffin mix is lard. Hey Jiffy: it’s 2011. Seriously. Lard?

So that’s why the Martha White mix gets my stamp of approval. The ingredients are white corn meal, flour, baking soda and salt. I added my own egg, milk, and oil. The Martha White mix makes a very savory, toasty cornbread that is very light, and would be great with a bowl of chili, or as a stuffing for roast turkey or chicken.

Speaking of ingredients, the Panbebono mix lists tapioca starch as the first ingredient. Most people know tapioca as a pudding or gravy thickener, so for this gringo it is surprising to see it used in bread. I shouldn’t be surprised though, because it is getting some play as an ingredient in gluten-free baking. It also produces things with a texture that is a bit foreign to me: gummy. Gummy is a misleading word in that it sounds like a pejorative. A more accurate description would be that the Pandebono rolls have an inside that is similar to a popover.

As with the Martha White Cornmeal mix, the Pandebono mix is also very basic, and required that I add my own grated Cotija cheese, a touch of margarine or butter, and water. Cotija cheese is fairly easy to find here in New York, and its briny, crumbly taste and texture isn’t that far from Ricotta Salada.

The Pandebonos are good warm, but I found them to be even better when allowed to cool which tames their gummy texture, and brings out the contrast of the briny cheese, and the sugar in the mix. These are a real revelation for me and I can’t wait to experiment with other cheeses—possibly heresy to Colombians, so apologies in advance.

I wonder if Martha White is listed on a “no-fly” list?


Read what I made last year when I came back from the beach.

You can order Pandebono mix here

You can order Martha White mixes here (so who needs to travel?)


Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

Let me email you when the blog has been updated! Opt in by clicking the biscotti at right or by sending your email address to


September is back to Tweet time… tweet early and often!

Leave a Reply

Follow ButterFlourBlog on Twitter