July 12, 2011
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
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.