Depending on how you like your cornbread is all about where you live in the United States. Southern cornbread recipes contain neither sugar nor flour, making them savory and made mostly with cornmeal. Northern Cornbreads tend to be more cake-like, on the sweet side (thanks to the sugar) and with a finer crumb due to more flour in the mixture. Being born and raised in Columbus, Ohio I grew up eating the latter cornbread. I like a piece of cornbread that holds its shape and doesn’t crumble in your hands. A piece of cornbread that’s sturdy enough to serve warm slathered with butter, or dipped in a bowl chili.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that this is the first time that I’ve made Southern style cornbread. The first difference that I noticed was that Southern Style cornbread was baked in a scorching hot, greased cast-iron skillet as opposed to a cake pan. The second difference is that the Southern Style contains no flour or sugar. The cornmeal is also toasted to really let the corn flavor shine through. After trying this recipe I have to say despite the differences I am a fan of both types. I loved the potent corn flavor and tangy buttermilk of the Southern Style cornbread. I served this cornbread with Vegetarian Chili and it was perfect. I crumbled it right into the chili and it tasted incredible.
You begin this cornbread by preheating the skillet in a 450-degree oven until hot, about 10 minutes. This is a very important step that should not be overlooked, if the skillet is not hot the crust of the bread will be soft and pale rather than brown and crunchy. While the skillet is heating up, cornmeal is toasted in the oven until lightly golden. Toasting the cornmeal deepens its corn flavor dramatically. The toasted cornmeal is then combined with the buttermilk and allowed to rest for a few minutes while the oil is heated. Allowing the cornmeal and buttermilk to rest will soften the cornmeal. If you skip this step, the cornbread will retain its hard, crunchy texture in the finished bread. After the oil is heated, all but one tablespoon of hot oil is added to the cornmeal mixture, along with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and eggs. The batter is then poured into a hot skillet and baked until the top begins to crack and the sides are golden brown. Allow the bread to cool in the skillet for 5 minutes before flipping out onto a wire rack and serving.
How do you like your cornbread? Are you a fan of the Southern Style or Northern Style Cornbread? I’d love to know in the comments below!
Yield: Serves 12
2 1/4 cups cornmeal
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat 10-inch ovensafe skillet on middle rack for 10 minutes. Place cornmeal on rimmed baking sheet and bake set on lower-middle rack) until fragrant and color begins to deepen, about 5 minutes. Transfer hot cornmeal to large bowl and whisk in buttermilk; set aside.
2. Add oil to hot skillet and continue to bake until oil is just smoking, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and add butter, carefully swirl the pan until butter is melted. Pour all but 1 tablespoon oil mixture into cornmeal mixture, leaving remaining fat in pan. Whisk baking powder, baking soda, salt, and eggs into cornmeal mixture.
3. Pour cornmeal mixture into hot skillet and bake until top begins to crack and sides are golden brown, 12 to 16 minutes. Let cool in pan 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack. Serve.
Source: Cook's Country, February/March 2008
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