I think every Southern cook must have their own recipe for cornbread. I recently acquired a book of recipes by writers, and one of my favorite Southern writers, Fred Chappell (who lives just up the road in Greensboro), contributed a cornbread recipe. It goes like this:
Meanwhile, be making your batter — some buttermilk, about a full drinking glass of it, four handfuls white cornmeal, salt, plenty of red or black pepper, baking powder, about a spoonful, maybe less. Put all this into a quart Mason jar. Add an egg if you like but be careful breaking. Bits of shell add texture but alarm females. Screw the top on the jar and shimmy like a Ford truck with a shot wheel bushing.
And it continues like that, which illustrates the beauty of cornbread: You can make it a dozen different ways, using the ingredients you’ve got on hand, and it’s pretty hard to mess it up. Make it for breakfast or dinner — it’s an egalitarian bread.
Here’s the way I make cornbread (feel free to adapt as suits you):
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Spray a 9-inch-square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- Melt 2 tbsp. butter and let cool.
- Combine 1 cup flour, 1 cup cornmeal, 4 tsp. sugar, 2 tsp. baking powder, ½ tsp. baking soda, ½ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. cayenne.
- Make a well and gently stir in 2 large eggs.
- Add 1 cup buttermilk (substitute milk or plain yogurt if you don’t have any buttermilk on hand).
- Fold the wet ingredients into the dry until barely combined.
- Add the butter.
- Continue folding until the mixture is barely moistened.
- Pour into the baking dish and bake until golden-brown, 25-35 minutes.
Notes: Cornbread is very accepting of add-ins. Stir any of these in with the butter:
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup grated cheddar or other cheese
- ¾ cup corn kernels
- 1 chopped jalapeno
- ½ cup sauteed onions
- 2 tbsp. fresh herbs