You wouldn’t think a thing as wonderful as cornbread would be something people would be ready to get in a fight over. But I have heard it said that there is something called Real Cornbread, that has no wheat flour or sugar and is baked in a cast iron pan. That is Southern Cornbread and it is made from cornmeal, egg, milk or buttermilk, and bacon drippings or lard. If it has wheat flour and sugar, these guys call it “light cornbread” or Northern Cornbread, and they scoff. There is no sugar in cornbread below the Mason Dixon Line. Period.
Well, my cornbread has wheat flour and sugar, so I guess it would be considered Northern Cornbread. However, it is baked in a cast iron pan, so maybe it could be called a hybrid. My cornbread also has more butter than any other recipe I have ever seen. It is baked at a higher temperature and for a shorter length of time than any other I’ve seen. It is also, I have to say it, better tasting than any other cornbread I have ever eaten. You can beat me up now.
If you don’t believe me, then let me tell you a true story. I took this cornbread to a potluck and put it out on the table with all the other dishes. A little while later I saw a lady pick up my platter and start going around to all the other guests at the party. She would stop by each one and whisper in their ear, “You have to try this cornbread…” Ok, enough of my own horn blowing. Moving on.
When I decided to write about cornbread, I did some research on-line. Did you know if you google cornbread there are over 8 million results? I had to laugh. My recipe will be like a piece of straw in a haystack. I also found that there aren’t really any great photos of cornbread. It just isn’t photogenic. It has no sharp edges, it is a uniform light color and looks like yellow blocks that do not reflect light. My photos fit in perfectly with everyone else’s – fuzzy dull yellow rectangles. Sorry. But I was thinking what else I could do with it, like serve a creamed shrimp sauce over it, or cut it up in cubes and bake it into salad croutons. Or dry it out and crumble it up to make cornbread stuffing for turkey. I have a bunch frozen in my freezer, so stay tuned.
Soft Buttery Northern Style Cornbread
10-inch Cast Iron Skillet
450 degrees F
1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal (I use Albers)
½ cup AP flour
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg beaten
1 ½ cups buttermilk
½ cup salted butter melted in a small bowl, cooled slightly
¼ cup salted butter melted in a 2nd small bowl
1. Put a 10-inch well-seasoned cast iron skillet in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk and ½ cup melted butter.
4. ***Take skillet out of the oven.***
5. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and quickly stir together.
6. Pour the 1/4 cup melted butter into the skillet and tilt to coat the bottom.
7. Pour the batter into the skillet. Do not tilt. Some butter will be on top of the batter.
8. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Tester will come out clean.
9. Using a long metal spatula partially under cornbread to guide, move the pan slowly into a nearly vertical position while you are sliding the cornbread out onto a cutting board.
Note: This cornbread freezes beautifully. Cut it into serving-size pieces and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Place all wrapped pieces in a large ziplock freezer bag and freeze up to 3 months. To reheat in microwave, partially unwrap plastic from each piece, leaving only the top of the cornbread exposed. Do not reheat on high. Use medium or low setting, heating until cornbread is hot throughout but still soft. Too high heat or for too long will make a hard dry area in the middle of the cornbread.