Great All-Corn Cornbread

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I am a bit of a cornbread freak.  Not that Mom was exactly known for cornbread — she used a mix and no one thought twice about it — but when she made chili, she made cornbread, and I ate both in spades.

Later in life, I found Crescent Dragonwagon’s recipe and my cornbread love reached new, cornier heights. More importantly, I came to appreciate cornbread that isn’t corncake.  Which is, sadly, what you all too often get when you order cornbread: cloying, unnecessarily moist, and more like dessert.

When I gave up wheat, I despaired a little because while all-cornmeal cornbread is good, it wasn’t great. Then I discovered corn flour — a lighter, finer grind of cornmeal — and suddenly everything got better.

Why does it work?  Well, cornbread is a quick bread, and gluten’s allure — creating that nice protein structure that gives sourdough its holes — isn’t really needed.  Baking soda/powder will raise the quickbread just fine, with or without gluten along for the ride, so long as the batter isn’t too heavy.  Which it isn’t, thanks to the corn flour!  Bonus: your cornbread will taste even “cornier”. Whoo hoo!

So this is my cornbread now.  It’s not too sweet, it uses blue cornmeal for extra protein, and whenever possible I bake it in a cast iron skillet (Crescent would be proud).  I also use bacon drippings because I almost always have them on hand and butter, well, burns. This mix also works for muffins, just omit the drippings/butter and be sure to use muffin cups to prevent the batter from sticking.

If you don’t have a skillet, don’t despair — any 9×9″ pan will do, and I’ve even used cake pans in a pinch. I think the iron skillet makes a superior crust — and a gorgeous presentation — but you can still make a good cornbread without it.

This is great stuff, and worthy of sitting next to your favorite chili recipe…or all on its own, with a drizzle of honey.

Great All-Corn Cornbread

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons bacon fat or butter
  • 1 cup cornmeal (medium-coarse grind)
  • 1 cup corn flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg (large)
  • 2-4 tablespoons sugar, maple syrup, and/or honey (omit for a less-sweet cornbread)

Directions

1. Crank your oven to 450 degrees and put your fat in the cast iron skillet. If, in fact, you decide to use butter, do yourself a favor and don’t add it until five minutes before you combine the wet and dry ingredients to make the batter. Butter burns. Just trust me on this.
2. Use a whisk to combine the corn flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
3. In a small bowl (or a 2-cup measuring glass) combine the buttermilk, egg, and sweetener until well mixed.
4. Quickly add the wet to the dry and stir to combine. You don’t have to worry about overbeating, but you do want to go as fast as you can so the leavening gets plenty of time to do its job in the oven. Pull the hot skillet from the oven (that sucker will be hot, too, so please — use hotpads) and scrape the batter in. Smooth out the top. Some fat may be there, no matter; that’s a good thing!
5. Pop the skillet in the oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes until it’s crusty and lusty. Serve warm.