I’ve made a lot of bad cornbread over the years.
Dry cornbread. Gritty cornbread. Cornbread with no discernible corn flavor at all. Terrible, bitter cornbread that initially led me to believe my cornmeal was rancid, but which I eventually came to blame on my leavening instead.
Finally, after many, many disappointing bouts, I stumbled across a recipe with the boastful title “Perfect cornbread … every time.” The author promised no bitter aftertaste and, well, I couldn’t resist.
I’ve since changed nearly everything about the original recipe, using buttermilk instead of milk, less sugar, more cornmeal, and so on until I arrived at cornbread that is not only worth making again and again, but one that is hard to resist polishing off in a single sitting.
People have strong opinions about cornbread and I don’t know that there is such a thing as any one “perfect” cornbread recipe. Some of you will find the sweetness too subtle here while others will attest that true cornbread should have no sugar at all. Similar disputes are sure to surround the inclusion of an egg or the permissibility of combining corn meal with wheat flour.
No, this cornbread won’t please everyone, but after years of searching, this is the recipe I now turn to time and again. It’s faintly sweet, with a somewhat nubbly texture, a golden brown crust and plenty of corn flavor.
It’s perfect to sop up the brothy liquid at the bottom of a bowl of pinto beans and just as good with a drizzle of honey for breakfast. Try it and see what you think.
Adapted liberally from Food.com.
You'll notice there's a very large range of baking times for this recipe. The original recipe called for baking the cornbread for 18 − 23 minutes, but I've found mine is sometimes ready in as few as 12.
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 T. vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 cups cornmeal
- 3/4 cup flour (I used white whole wheat but plain old all-purpose would be fine)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Melt the butter in a 10" cast iron skillet, pour into a small bowl and set aside to cool slightly.
Pour the oil into the now empty skillet. Put the skillet into the hot oven. After a few minutes, remove the skillet from the oven -- you want the pan and the oil to be hot, but not smoking.
In a large bowl, sift or whisk all the dry ingredients together.
Add the buttermilk, egg and melted butter and stir to combine.
Pour the batter into the hot skillet and bake for 12-23 minutes.The cornbread is ready when a toothpick comes out clean and the top has just begun to crack.