How seriously do you take your cornbread recipe? I take mine very seriously, but, I'm not proclaiming it the best recipe. Why? If I walked into a room full of people right now and struck up a conversation about cornbread, the cornbread lovers would all chime in unision, "I have the absolute best recipe and I'd be happy to share it with you." If there were a native Southerner or two in the room with us Yankees, there would be a full-blown lecture about Southen cornbread being the only "real" cornbread. The spirited discussion would revolve around the rights and wrongs of cornbread baking, and, Northern- vs. Southern-style cornbread. With just one or two very, very minor deviations, I classify my cornbread as Southern!
"Perhaps no bread in the world is quite as good as Southern cornbread, and perhaps no bread in the world is quite so bad as the Northern imitation of it." ~ Mark Twain
1) Southern cornbread has a larger ratio of corn meal to wheat flour (all-purpose flour) than Northern versions, and many cooks in the South add no wheat flour at all. I've tried it both ways and my preference is to add a bit of wheat flour to the mix. Corn, which is both a vegetable and a grain, lacks gluten which is what allows wheat flour to rise. My position is: a bit of flour does cornbread a world of good. The ratio I like best is three parts of corn meal to one part flour.
2) Southern cooks are adamant about using buttermilk only to make cornbread. I have done it using plain milk and I am taking this position: buttermilk is indeed essential to great cornbread.
3) Southern recipes almost always stir in a small amount of liquid fat: oil, melted butter or bacon drippings. I dislike oil and am a melted butter kind of girl, unless I'm adding bacon bits to my cornbread and just happen to have fresh bacon drippings on hand. Repeat: I dislike oil.
4) Southern purists add no sugar to their cornbread. I dislike sugar-free cornbread, and, since this is a free country, this Yankee woman puts sugar in her cornbread.
5) Southerners are the first ones to personalize their cornbread with flavorful additives like corn kernels and bacon bits. Diced chili peppers are frequently added to spice things up. I've tried all three and I'm taking this position: they are all great when added singularly or in conjunction with each other. The more the merrier where cornbread is concerned.
A few days ago, I made and posted my recipe for ~ Chilly-Day Comfort: Robin's Chile Relleno Bake!!! ~. This casserole is hearty, yet light, and somewhat like a strata*, but without the bread. Because it contains no bread, cornbread or corn muffins are the perfect accompaniment to it. It can be found in Categories 3, 9, 13, 19 or 20 or by clicking on the Related Articles link below.
*Note: A strata is a layered casserole in the same food category with quiche and frittata. It consists primarily of some type of cubed bread, grated cheese and a beaten egg mixture. After that, it can include cooked meats, seafood, and/or vegetables. After the ingredients are layered in the casserole dish, it is baked and served hot, warm or at room temperature for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Usually served as main course, some renditions make wonderful side-dishes.
A bit about corn muffins: Muffins made from cornmeal are popular all over the USA, and, the corn muffin is the offical muffin of the state of Massachusetts. Corn muffins are basicially muffin-shaped cornbread, but, are usually sweeter. I add extra sugar to my corn muffins while other bakers add sweeteners like corn syrup, honey and even maple syrup. Corn muffins made with traditional corn bread ingredients (a healthy amount of cornmeal), will not have the signature domed-top that other kinds of muffins and their cupcake cousins, which are made with all-purpose flour or cake flour, do.
Would you like a corn muffin would that? Yes please!
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 extra-large eggs, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup creamed corn
1 cup whole corn kernels, fully-cooked and shaved off the cob, or, canned and well-drained
2 tablespoons finely-diced, crisply-fried bacon (optional)
1/4 cup well-drained, pickled jalapeno peppers, diced (optional)
1/4 cup melted butter (1/2 stick)
~ Step 2. In a large mixing bowl, using a large spoon, thoroughly stir together the dry ingredients: the corn meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt and white pepper. Set aside.
Note: This can be done up to a day in advance. How convenient is that!
~ Step 4. In a medium mixing bowl, using a fork, beat the eggs. Using a large spoon, add and stir in the following wet ingredients, plus the sugar: buttermilk, creamed corn, whole corn kernels and sugar. Stir in any optional ingredients. Add the butter and vigorously mix until sugar is dissolved, about 15-30 seconds.
~ Step 5. Before proceeding any further with this recipe, take a few moments to line the desired-size muffin pans (standard or miniature) with "cupcake" papers. You'll need 12 standard-size papers, or, 36 miniature-size papers.
Tip from Mel: Use yellow-colored or white "cupcake" papers. After baking, your muffins almost look like the papers aren't even there!
~ Step 8. Bake muffins on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, until puffed and slightly golden, about 15 minutes for standard muffins and 13 minutes for miniature muffins. Remove from oven and immediatley transfer muffins from pans to cooling rack. Cool for about 3 minutes before serving hot, or, longer to serve warm or at room temperature:
Special Equipment List: large spoon; fork; 1-2 standard-size muffin pans, enough for 12 muffins, or, 2-3 miniature-size muffin pans, enough for 3 dozen muffins; 1 dozen standard-size or 3 dozen miniature-size, disposable cupcake/muffin papers; 2 1/2" or 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop; cooling rack
Cook's Note: If it's just one traditional loaf of cornbread your looking to make, my recipe for ~ It's a Triple-Corn Japapeno Cornbread Kinda Day ~ (which is almost identical to the corn muffins I made today), can be found in Catetories 5 or 13. And... don't forget the red chile honey or jelly!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)