Cornbread takes me back. Back to my grandma’s kitchen where to this day she always manages to have a freshly baked tin waiting for me on the kitchen counter. A thick square warmed up in the microwave, topped with a pat of cold butter and drizzled (generously) with wildflower honey is the way I like it best, the perfect treat. There’s just enough graininess to keep it from being too cake-like and whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner I can always find a place on my plate for cornbread.
My mom made us cornbread from a box. You might think this would make it unloved somehow, but on the contrary I think it made us love it even more. My mom doesn’t cook and she certainly doesn’t bake. So there was something so endearingly maternal about her side of cornbread with the evening meal. Even she could manage to throw together a batch of cornbread. Instead of the casserole pan my grandma used, my mom poured the butter yellow batter into pastel lined muffin tins. Baby pinks, blues and yellows that evoked memories of Easter eggs but were actually just the only ones she had on hand. Sometimes she even opted for the mini muffin tin (my sister and I were fans of all things mini) and I remember bringing the leftovers in a little bag to school the next day, carefully peeling back the light pink paper and gobbling up the sweet and salty muffins on my recess break.
Lately I’ve been making cornbread in a pan like my grandma. I really have no better reason except that I don’t own a muffin tin in Germany yet (a situation I’m constantly on the lookout to rectify) and while I should be able to get my hands on a standard tin, I may have to lug a mini muffin tin back from the United States this year.
My favorite thing about making cornbread is simple: I can make it in my sleep. It is so easy- a quick bread- I can whip up the batter in under ten minutes and after 30-40 minutes in the oven it’s ready to go. Perfection at its best. Tim, being German, and therefore ridiculously spoiled in the manner of all things “bread” was skeptical about my (very) American- corn-concoction. He took some convincing but I’m happy to report that after a few batches he’s come full circle when it comes to cornbread. The only downside to this is that now we have less cornbread leftover the next day. Lately none.
Ironically enough, given my history with cornbread, I don’t have any one recipe I go back to time and time again. I think I’m still looking for the perfect cornbread recipe, the one, so to speak ( I figure that at 23 I still have time in that department). Right now I make it slightly different every time. Sometimes I use buttermilk if I have it in the fridge, other times I might add a little honey in place of granulated sugar. This time I based it off a recipe that specified baking the bread in a cast iron skillet. I would have loved to do that- so if you have a cast iron skillet please use that instead of the aforementioned muffin tin or casserole dish- but of course that’s not something I have lying about my German kitchen. Though I wish it were so. There’s something so romantically Southern about cast-iron skillets; I’m a Californian through and through but I can’t help being a little drawn to that part of the country. I suppose I listen to too much country music.
I must say that I was impressed with the moistness of the crumb of this cornbread. It was rich and buttery without being greasy or heavy in the slightest. In the future I might add a bit more cornmeal to the batter; I like a little extra texture. Enjoy your cornbread warm from the oven (with cold butter and a thick drizzle of honey) or you can eat it my second favorite way: crumbled up over chili with sour cream. That is some good stuff.
Recipe adapted from fiveandspice.com
1/2 c butter, softened and cut into cubes
2/3 c sugar
2 large eggs
1 c yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 c white flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 c milk or buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a baking pan or 9- 10 inch cast iron skillet
2. Cream the butter and sugar together until it reaches a pale yellow color
3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each egg, then add the cornmeal
4. In a small bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. Then add to the egg and butter mixture in three stages. Alternate with adding the milk. Start and end with the dry ingredients.
5. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until golden brown on top (about 35-45 minutes) and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
**I used a glass casserole dish to bake my cornbread and it baked beautifully in just under 45 minutes. If you’re using a cast iron skillet adjust the time needed and monitor the baking process. **