July 12, 2011

Skillet Honey Cornbread

I didn't grow up with cornbread.  My mother grew up in California and moved to the Midwest, and neither is exactly known for cornbread.  I probably had cornbread at some point or another while growing up, but if so, I don't recall.   The first time I actually remember having cornbread was while I was at college, and that cornbread really made an impression on me.

Once a year, as part of the college's diversity activities, the college would have a meal consisting of African-American cuisine, cooked by African-American cooks, including some of the students and their parents.  They served up huge amounts of wonderful food representing a bunch of different traditions of African-American cooking.  In addition to some incredible fried chicken and ribs, those meals were the first time I had things like collard greens, black-eyed peas, sweet potato pie.  My favorite part of the meal (though the fried chicken came in a close second) was always the cornbread.

The cornbread was made by my friend Fred's mother.  It was a sweet cornbread, with honey included in the batter, topped with more honey and served up steaming-hot.  It is still the best cornbread I've ever had.

Since then, I've made a lot of cornbread, using a bunch of different recipes.   Some of them have been good (and a few have been dreadful).  Some have been more Southern-style, without much (if any) honey or sugar, while others have been fairly sweet, but none of them have been very satisfying... until now.   I had decided to make another attempt at great cornbread, hoping to serve it up with some roast pork I was planning to make.   I looked around online to find some recipes I hadn't tried yet, and a Skillet Cornbread recipe at Cookworm caught my eye.  I particularly liked the idea of using yogurt to add a bit of tartness to the cornbread.

I used that recipe as my starting point.  I changed some things (reducing the salt, leaving out the herbs, and adding a brush of honey at the end), and I also used nonfat Greek yogurt.  With those changes made, I tried out my recipe.

As soon as I took it out of the oven, I suspected I'd finally found a cornbread recipe I'd be satisfied with.  From the first bite I took, I knew it.

This cornbread has great texture:  Moist, fairly fluffy compared to a lot of cornbread I've had, but still coarse and with enough chew so it is not the least bit cake-like.   It also tastes great, with just the right amount of sweetness combined with rich butter and corn flavor.  

This is easily the best cornbread I've ever made.  It's not even a contest, really.  I won't claim it's as good as Fred's mom's cornbread, but it is darn good.  This will become my go-to cornbread recipe.

Skillet Honey Cornbread

1              cup cornmeal (preferably whole-grain, medium
                   or coarse-grind)
1              cup unbleached all purpose flour
1              tablespoon baking powder
3/4           teaspoon table salt
1              cup Greek-style nonfat yogurt
3              tablespoons whole milk
1/3           cup + 2 tablespoons honey
1              large egg
1/2           cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Heat a cast-iron skillet (9 or 10-inch) in the oven for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk to blend.  In a second medium bowl, whisk yogurt, milk, 1/2 cup of honey and egg until well-combined.

With a thick oven mitt, remove the skillet from the oven and add the butter.  Swirl until the butter is melted, then pour all but 1 tablespoon of the melted butter into the egg mixture and stir immediately to combine.  

Pour egg mixture into the cornmeal mixture and stir until just combined.  Do not over-mix.

Pour the batter into the skillet.  Bake until browned around the edges and a tester inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean (about 18 minutes).  Brush the top of the hot cornbread with the remaining 2 tablespoons of honey.

Allow the cornbread to cool in the skillet for 10 minutes, then invert onto a plate and re-invert onto a serving plate.


  1. This is in the oven as I type. I did look for the original recipe, but Cookworm has moved that blog and did not take older recipes with them. The link you give now is a blank page. One discrepancy in your recipe: you call for 1/3 cup + 2 tbsps honey (for brushing) in your ingredient list, but add 1/2 cup honey in your instructions to the yogurt mixture. Which is correct, 1/3 or 1/2? I went with the 1/3 and found the batter particularly dry; there would be no way to "pour" it. So I added a little extra milk and still had to scrape and push it into the skillet. Your own photo shows a rather thick batter, so am hoping this will be OK.

  2. Corn bread batter is typically not pourable, a plastic scraper "helping" the batter get into the pan is definitely the way to go. It looks like the 1/2 cup of honey is the correct amount, the 1/3 cup must have been a typo. Thanks for calling this to our attention!

    Your instincts about adding a bit of milk were good, too. I would also caution you about adding the hot butter directly to the mixture. Unless you're a *very* diligent stirrer, you may end up with scrambled egg! Let the butter cool a bit before adding.

    I hope your cornbread turned out just as yummy as Jeffrey's did!