Monday, September 19, 2011

Corn Bread for a Chilly Evening

Ah, corn bread. Easy to make, quick to bake, delicious for dinner with soup, and wonderful leftover for breakfast, split and toasted and buttered.

As the pea soup simmered on the stove last night (read about it HERE ), I knew we wanted some cornbread to have with it. But which sort of cornbread would it be? The sweet soft “Northern” variety that K favors, or the gritty, crunchy “Southern” variety that D prefers? Southern-style corn bread it was, since K is away and D is my sole kitchen customer these days.

I like the recipe in the “old” Joy of Cooking, which calls for stone-ground cornmeal in the batter, and a cast-iron skillet for the baking, a combination which yields wonderful texture, a deep golden-brown crust, and a simple corn flavor. It’s a straightforward recipe, though I make a few changes; I use molasses instead of white sugar, and a mixture of low-fat yogurt and low-fat milk for the buttermilk. The molasses adds an “old” flavor and makes the bread come out with a nice golden-brown color. I never have buttermilk on hand, and it’s just cultured milk, anyway.


Pre-heat the oven to 450˚F, and place the rack about two-thirds of the way up. In a cast iron skillet, pour about 1-2 tablespoons corn oil (or bacon fat, if you have it), and put the skillet in the oven to heat as the oven heats. Now, you must either work quickly or have all your ingredients to hand, as you must get the batter ready before the oil or fat begins to smoke.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the dry ingredients:

¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups stone-ground cornmeal, preferably white corn
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
(If you use white sugar, include it here)

In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, beat to combine:

1-2 tablespoons molasses (omit if you are using white sugar)
1 large egg
½ cup nonfat plain yogurt blended with ½ cup low-fat milk (or 1 cup buttermilk)
2-3 tablespoons corn oil or bacon fat (this is in addition to the pan oil)

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and whisk just until blended. Do not over-mix.

Quickly but carefully, take the pan out of the oven. Be very careful of the hot oil. Shut the oven door right away. 

Pour the batter into the preheated pan and quickly but carefully spread it out. You will notice that the batter begins to puff and cook the moment it hits the hot iron.

Immediately put the pan back into the hot oven. Bake the cornbread for 20-25 minutes, until the top is somewhat browned and the bread has started to pull away slightly from the sides of the pan. Do not overcook; you will end up with hard, dry bread. Serve the cornbread immediately from the pan, cutting it into wedges.

Butter is nice, but if you’re serving this with soup, it’s not needed.


Cornbread made with stone-ground corn gets stale quickly – within a half-hour – so time the baking so that you will be ready for the bread will come out of the oven.

If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, just use a regular baking dish, metal or glass. If you use a glass dish, bake it at 425˚F.

Variations: Add a cup of shredded sharp cheddar and/or some chopped cooked bacon. Or a cup of (canned) creamed corn. Or, use white sugar instead of molasses, and add a cup of chopped fresh or frozen cranberries (delicious!)

For breakfast: Split and toast a wedge of the leftover cornbread. (Staleness matters not for toasting.) While the bread is toasting, fry an egg over easy, using high heat and plenty of butter. Place the toasted cornbread on a plate and slide the egg on top with all the butter. Salt and pepper, of course. If you have some leftover baked beans to have on the side, so much the better. This is an Old New England Breakfast par excellence.

Leftover cornbread is also very nice crumbled up and added to bread dressing (stuffing) for poultry.

All my recipes may be viewed here:

They are further organized as follows, with some overlap:

Main Dishes
Soups and Stews

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