I've been baking a lot of cornbread lately. I couldn't tell you exactly why, other than that it's the same reason you listen to an old favorite album on repeat after thumbing through your record collection and stumbling across Paranoid by Black Sabbath and remembering how amazing it truly is. (Coincidentally, I've also been listening to a lot of early Sabbath lately.)
I didn't do a lot of cooking or baking in my old kitchen. The lighting was bad, there was no ventilation, and the sloping counters had a tendency to allow things like fresh eggs to roll quickly off the edge and plummet messily to the floor below. I recently moved into a new place, however, with a wonderful kitchen that makes up for what it lacks in space with an abundance of cheerfulness and brightness. I have been cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner; the moment one meal ends, I'm planning another. It's a testament to the power of good kitchen design.
So as I've been getting reacquainted with old recipes I haven't made in a while—jamming out pans of buttery cornbread while Ozzy Osbourne wails over Tony Iommi's dark, chugging sludge on "War Pigs"—I've become enamored with the way cornbread sort of neatly fits with nearly everything I'm making (including turkey neck stew and chicken soup). Double the recipe, bake a quick pan to have on hand, and it lasts for several meals. It's certainly better for you than straight-up supermarket bread; the corn meal is full of fiber, iron, and other nutrients, and I usually skip adding any sugar (although the recipe below calls for it if you have a sweet tooth). It's naturally gluten-free—important, as I've been sharing pans with my gluten-intolerant neighbors—and so easy to make, you'll memorize the recipe after only a few passes.
And should you find yourself needing to sate that sweet tooth at the end of a meal, there's nothing quite like a piece of hot cornbread, split and buttered, drenched in sorghum molasses for dessert. Note that my cornbread recipe below follows the style of my East Texas kin: it's more like moist, fluffy corn cake than tough little hushpuppies.
Serves 4 (at 2 pieces each)
- 2 c. stone-ground yellow cornmeal
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbs sugar (optional)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/4 c. buttermilk
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 c. creamed corn
- 1 1/2 Tbs vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet into the oven while it preheats. If you don't have a skillet, you can substitute a Pyrex dish, but you'll be missing that signature crispy crust later.
In one bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda and whisk to combine. In a another bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, and creamed corn and stir until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients and stir to combine. I find it's easiest to do three separate additions here.
Remove the cast-iron skillet from the oven. Carefully add vegetable oil to the cast iron skillet and then pour the batter into the skillet; enjoy the sizzle. Bake until the cornbread is golden-brown and springs back upon the touch, about 25 minutes. Because your skillet is well-seasoned, the cornbread will slip right out and onto your plate.