This cornbread can neither be called authentic Southern- nor Northern-style. It borrows my favorite qualities of both with a nice crust, gritty texture and light sweetness.
The words wouldn’t come. I’ve tried to write this post several times–type, delete, walk away, type, delete, walk away. It’s not like I’m writing a dissertation…but I’ve had a hard time showing up here with a cornbread recipe.
Like you, I’ve been watching, listening to and reading the news about what’s going on on the other side of the world and what I have to say about a recipe seems frivolous and insensitive in comparison. So I remind myself that you’re not here for that; with a collective heaviness of heart we go about our business as we wait to see how things unfold, hoping and praying for the best outcome possible.
In the meantime, a recipe, and one that can sometimes elicit some strong opinions. Do you like Southern-style cornbread–the original, in fact–which generally favors little to no sugar and/or flour, is crumbly with a gritty texture from the cornmeal and always baked in a cast iron skillet? Northern-style cornbread is sweeter, more cake-like, uses milk instead of buttermilk and is baked in a baking pan.
With Southern roots (by way of Tennessee) part of me wishes that I had grown up with a cornbread recipe that my grandfather, Harry, might have enjoyed with his family in Chattanooga. He passed away when my mother was a child and remembering keepsakes and old letters exchanged with my mother’s aunts and cousins, I don’t remember ever coming across any family recipes.
Without an heirloom recipe to influence my cornbread taste, after a few trials, I’ve come up with a version that my family of two enjoys. It’s neither a true Southern nor an authentic Northern cornbread. Rather it borrows my favorite qualities of both.
A little sweet, lighter, a little crumbly with a gritty texture and the skillet is a must for a buttery, crisp crust. My husband and I like a pronounced corn flavor so I use corn kernels in the batter, half of which are puréed to optimize the corn experience. I’ve thrown in a little grated cheddar for some sharpness but this is optional.
If you’re like me and want to start your own cornbread tradition and have yet to find your tried-and-true, I hope you find more to like than not in this one. With my trials I found this recipe to be flexible enough to slide the sugar, flour and cornmeal amounts depending on where your preference lies on the Northern or Southern cornbread spectrum. As for the add-ins, skip the cheese or load up. Your cornbread, like mine, may not be regionally authentic but you’ll be able to call it your own.
This cornbread can neither be called authentic Southern- nor Northern-style but it borrows my favorite qualities of both with a nice crust, gritty texture and light sweetness.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose floour
- 1 cup cornmeal (I use medium grind but use what you have)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup milk (any type; I use almond)
- 2 large eggs
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (plus more for coating skillet)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (or use all butter)
- 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels (unsalted; thawed) Puree 3/4 cup and set aside
- 6 ounces grated cheddar or pepper jack cheese
Preheat your oven and cast iron skillet to 400ºF.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, corn meal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. (All the dry ingredients except the sugar.) Stir in the grated cheese and 3/4 cup whole corn kernels.
In a medium bowl stir together the sugar, milk, eggs, butter, olive oil and pureed corn until well blended. Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture.
With oven mitts, take the hot skillet out of the oven and brush the inside with butter. Pour the batter into the skillet and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the cornbread is crisp and golden.