There are as many recipes for cornbread as there are Southern cooks in America. I’ve adapted my fundamental recipe and technique from a cookbook called Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Joni Tipton-Martin. Many more regional adaptations can be found in my friend Crescent Dragonwagon’s cookbook The Cornbread Gospels. It’s great fun to read the lore surrounding this regional staple.
The trick to success for a crumbly texture is hardly more complicated than pre-heating your 9″ cast iron skillet in a 425 degree oven. When it’s hot, melt the butter in the hot pan in the oven until it’s foamy (30 seconds?), then swirl it around so that your pan is well greased on the sides. Then pour the butter into your prepared batter. This hot pan will make your crust perfect.
I make baggies of the dry mixture ahead of time so they are “Grab and Go” when I’m ready to whip up a batch of cornbread. The dry mix is:
1 Cup Cornmeal, traditionally white and stone ground, but yellow is acceptable for its pretty color
1 Cup all-purpose Flour (never use wheat flour)
2 Tablespoons Sugar (or none if you prefer a purely savory cornbread)
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Buttermilk
1 Large Egg, beaten
6 Tablespoons Butter
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine the beaten egg and buttermilk. Fold the egg and buttermilk into the dry mixture until just blended, don’t overmix.
Swirl the butter in the preheated pan until foamy, and then pour the rest into the batter. Fold the butter into your batter but again: don’t overmix. The batter will be thick. Pour the batter into the pan and pat it all down flat.
Bake at 425 degrees until golden, 20 minutes.
Let cool about 10 minutes before cutting into slices and enjoy.
Perfect topped with honey or maple syrup. This is heaven with poached eggs. It’s wonderful when you add a bit of diced jalapeno pepper, onion and cheese and make it Mexican/Spanish. Adding small white frozen sweet corn makes it hardy.
I warn you though: it’s risky to try to fix perfection–a cornbread as simply perfect as this cornbread. But the challenge is real. Please email me and let me know if you have any tricks to making a cornbread any better than this one.