Cornbread with Backbone

by Kelly on November 20, 2009   

Corn, molasses, some sweet butter -- pass the hootch!

Corn, molasses, sweet butter — pass the hooch!

I do not like my cornbread too sweet. And I don’t like it too dainty or too tender. Give me some grain and texture, some crumble and salt, so I can sop it with molasses and have something to chew on. This cornbread is all that — you might need a broom straw to pick yer teeth after.

It’s got some crunch because I use a combination of regular and coarse cornmeal (often labeled as polenta). There is also a “medium-grind” organic cornmeal out there, which works well as a substitute for the coarse meal.

On the left is fine grind or regular cornmeal, medium grind in the middle, and coarse grind on the right

On the left is fine-grind or regular cornmeal, medium-grind in the middle, and coarse-grind on the right

My sis-in-law called the other day for a cornbread recipe which got me thinking about mine, one I put together years ago for the Grill Book. I go in phases of making cornbread, but I nearly always make batches of it around Thanksgiving since I use it in stuffing (coming in the next post!). Cornbread seems to go best with cooler weather — and as long as you’re at it, a meaty chili and some warm spiked cider as well.

Cornbread | 4 to 6 servings

If you don’t like the crunchiness of coarse-grain cornmeal, just use all fine- or regular-grind instead. For blue cornbread substitute blue cornmeal for the yellow.

1/2 cup regular yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup coarse-grind yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, plus enough to butter the pan
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter an 8 x 8- or 9 x 7-inch baking pan or pyrex dish.

Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well.

Don't worry if the brown sugar has a few lumps

Don’t worry if the brown sugar has a few lumps — they’ll melt in the cooking

Melt the 1 tablespoon butter, beat in the egg, and add the milk, mixing well.

Add the egg first to the melted butter and mix well

Add the egg first to the melted butter and mix well

The protein in the egg binds with the butterfat, making this a smooth emulsion rather than the recongealed butter bits you'd get if you added cold milk first

The protein in the egg binds with the butterfat, making this a smooth emulsion rather than the recongealed butter bits you’d get if you added cold milk first

The liquids stay smooth and distribute better into the dry ingredients

The liquids stay smooth and distribute better into the dry ingredients

Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and mix gently until combined. Don’t overmix.

Mix just enough to dampen all the dry ingredients

Mix just enough to dampen all the dry ingredients

This batter can't be set aside -- the baking powder begins reacting when it gets wet

This batter can’t be set aside — the baking powder begins reacting when it gets wet

Pour the batter into the buttered baking pan.

The batter will spread out on its own as it cooks

The batter will spread out on its own as it cooks

Bake the cornbread for 14 to 16 minutes, or until browned on top and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Eat it while it's warm

Eat it while it’s warm

Allow the cornbread to sit for 5 minutes in the pan before cutting it into squares. Serve warm. Enjoy.

Kelly McCune © 2009
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Cherry, Almond & Sausage Stuffing
November 24, 2009 at 7:31 pm

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julia wasson December 23, 2009 at 9:49 pm

This sounds yummy, am going to make some tomorrow and hope we enough leftovers for stuffing on Friday. Your photos always look excellent, clean and pretty. If anything could get me interested in cooking, would be your blog… Love, Julia and Donald (how are the girls?)

Sue R. January 31, 2010 at 11:49 am

We have been in an **extreme** cold weather alert up here in Toronto with temperatures dropping to below 15Celsius (that’s 5 farenheit for those south of the border) w/o even factoring in windchill…. so I spent a lazy Sunday noon baking this cornbread — I only had medium grind cornmeal but delicious does not even begin to describe this, and the house is filled w the wonderful aroma of fresh baked cornbread. I love the “clean up as you go” mantra — it means for me I can sit back and enjoy the food instead of anticipating the clean up to come…

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