That hushpuppies got their name by hushing barking dogs, as legend goes, is doubtful. That they are hard to stop eating is not.
Why This Recipe Works
Too much cornmeal made the hushpuppies dense and gritty, while too much flour made them cakey. After a handful of tests, we determined quantities that balanced these two extremes. For the liquid component, tasters preferred the slight tang of buttermilk to water and milk. Once we settled on buttermilk, it made sense to add baking soda. Not only did soda react with the acidic buttermilk to produce a lighter hushpuppy, but it also helped brown it for the requisite crunchy crust. Allowing the batter to rest at room temperature before frying gave it time to thicken.
Many recipes for called for frying the hushpuppies in lard. We opted for peanut or vegetable oil, which are far more likely to be on hand these days.