Cornbread can be whipped up and baked as you’re readying dinner — no yeast, no kneading, no rising time. Its simple batter requires just a few staple ingredients, assuming there is cornmeal on hand.
The featured component — cornmeal — should be of good quality. Choose organic cornmeal, and if possible, freshly ground from a local mill (see suggested sources below). Medium or coarse grind gives the cornbread a slightly sweet corny flavor and a distinct, pleasantly gritty texture. Store organic cornmeal in the refrigerator for months or keep it in the freezer.
My favorite recipe, here, calls for 100% cornmeal, which means it’s gluten-free. It’s a basic formula I’ve made enough times that I know it by heart. Immensely adaptable and open to interpretation, it relies on buttermilk or yogurt for tang and a little loft. Honey sweetens it just a tad, but swap it with maple syrup if you’d like. Feel free to toss in bits of cooked bacon, sautéed shallots or chopped sweet peppers, and enrich it with grated cheese and fresh corn kernels. The secret ingredient? Browned butter.
Toasty and nutty browned butter adds both richness and flavor and keeps the cornbread tender and moist. Making it is a simple matter of melting the butter in the baking pan in the oven while it preheats and begins to brown. Most of that browned butter is poured into the batter and what’s left greases the pan.
This is multi-tasking at its best. This easy method is the result of a happy accident when I simply wasn’t paying attention. The results were so delicious, I do it every time.
Sources for fresh cornmeal: Bob’s Red Mill, available in most grocery stores; Sunrise Flour Mill (sunriseflourmill.com) online and at the Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis; Whole Grain Milling (wholegrainmilling.net), online and in food co-ops and local grocery stores.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.
Jalapeño Honey Cornbread
Makes about 9 pieces (a 7- by 9-inch, 8- by 8-inch, or 9- by 9-inch pan).
Note: This slightly sweet, spicy, rich cornbread is sparked with chopped jalapeño and served with a side of whipped honey-cilantro butter. From Beth Dooley.
• 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 1 1/2 c. coarse or medium-grind cornmeal
• 3/4 tsp. baking soda
• 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
• 2 eggs
• 1 1/2 c. plain yogurt, buttermilk or kefir (or whole milk with 1 tbsp. lemon juice or white wine vinegar)
• 1 tbsp. honey
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the butter into the baking pan and then into the oven to melt and begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Watch that it doesn’t burn. Remove the butter and pour most of it into a small dish, leaving the rest in the pan.
In a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, baking soda and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt and honey, then whisk in the browned butter.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry just until combined and pour into the buttered pan. Bake until golden, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool slightly; serve.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 195 Fat 7 g
Sodium 360 mg Carbohydrates 26 g
Saturated fat 4 g Added sugars 2 g
Protein 5 g Cholesterol 60 mg
Dietary fiber 1 g
Exchanges per serving: 2 starch, 1 fat.
Cilantro Honey Butter
Makes 1/4 cup.
Note: From Beth Dooley.
• 4 tbsp. (1/4 c.) softened unsalted butter
• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
• 1 tsp. honey or more to taste
• Pinch coarse salt
Whip all of the ingredients together and store in a crock, covered, in the refrigerator.
Nutrition information per 1 teapoon:
Calories 35 Fat 4 g
Sodium 14 mg Carbohydrates 0 g
Saturated fat 2 g Added sugars 0 g
Protein 0 g Cholesterol 10 mg
Dietary fiber 0 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 fat.