When was the last time you made cornbread? Did you use a commercial mix or did you pull out a favorite cookbook and make your batter from scratch?
Even if you’ve never made cornbread before, it is one of the easiest things to prepare well. Both novice and experienced cooks feel a great deal of satisfaction when making cornbread from scratch, as it is really hard to mess it up. It’s easy, forgiving and delicious.
With a three-day weekend coming up, now is a good time to give it a try if you are reluctant to bake from scratch during the week. But, honestly, it doesn’t take long.
If you’ve had cornmeal sitting in the back of a cupboard for a few years, you want to toss it out and start anew, as its flavor will have declined. You can find it in bulk at such local markets such as Oliver’s (in Santa Rosa, Cotati and Windsor), Andy’s (in Sebastopol) and Shed (in Healdsburg). I prefer stone-ground, medium-grind cornmeal but you should use whatever you prefer. The smaller the grind, the smoother the cornbread will be.
Cornbread will keep for several days properly wrapped; to enjoy it after the first day, heat it in a warm oven first.
To make the very best cornbread, you must bake it in a cast iron pan that has been preheated; there is no other way to get the right sort of crust on it. Enjoy it neat or alongside black bean soup, red beans and rice, chili Colorado, fried chicken, barbecued ribs or braised greens. It is also delicious slathered with either plain butter or maple syrup butter.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups medium-ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
— Maple Syrup Butter, recipe follows, optional
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Rub the 2 tablespoons of butter over the inside of a 10-inch cast-iron pan and set it on the middle rack of the oven.
Put the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl and mix with a fork. Set aside.
Put the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk very well, until light a creamy. Whisk in the buttermilk and melted butter.
Working quickly, remove the hot pan from the oven (be sure to protect your hands with heavy pot holders) and set it on top of the stove.
Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture and use a large rubber spatula to combine the ingredients in a few quick strokes; do not overmix.
Pour the batter into the hot pan, using the rubber spatula to scrape all of it from the bowl.
Quickly return the pan to the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Test the cornbread by pressing lightly on the center; it should feel firm. Alternately, insert a bamboo skewer into the center of the cornbread and if it comes out clean, it is done.
Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. Use a very thin knife or spatula to loosen the cornbread from the sides of the pan, if necessary. Invert onto a plate and then turn right side up onto a cooling rack.