I am a big fan of cornbread. This is a bread that’s hard for even anti-bakers like me to mess up. It comes together quickly, it can usually be made with whatever’s on hand (as long as you have cornmeal, and why don’t you?), and it’s appropriate for any meal or even a snack.
I usually make cornbread in a cake pan with equal parts cornmeal and flour. This makes a crumbly, lighter, bread-like cornbread that takes well to add-ins like chiles or cheese. But sometimes you want something different.
For Thanksgiving this year, I tried making cornbread the true Southern way, in a cast iron skillet. My trusty Le Creuset cast iron skillet was up to the task (one of the best investments I have made in pans). I also wanted a richer flavor befitting a special meal, so I greased the pan with bacon grease rather than oil, and I used a higher proportion of cornmeal to flour. The result was a dense, rich-tasting, cake-like cornbread that was among the best I have ever tasted. Cut into wedges fresh out of the oven, it was so moist it didn’t even need butter. I froze the leftovers and toasted them for breakfast this morning with a small pat of butter. Delicious.
Almost any way you make cornbread is a good way, I’ve found. But try out this method if you have some leftover bacon grease on hand. One thing I know for sure: I will only make cornbread in a cast iron skillet from now on.
Time to make: ~45 minutes plus time to cool
Yields: 8 servings
What you need:
- bacon fat
- ½ cup flour
- 1½ cups cornmeal
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 lg. eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
- cast-iron skillet
- Coat the inside of the skillet with the bacon fat (or substitute a neutral oil).
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with the skillet inside.
- Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Make a well in the dry ingredients and gently stir in the eggs and buttermilk.
- Add the butter.
- Fold the wet ingredients into the dry untl barely moistened.
- Remove the skillet from the oven and pour in the batter.
- Bake 25-35 minutes, until golden-brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let rest a few minutes (up to 1 hour) before serving.