the best cornbread recipe, ever

I’ve attempted cornbread and corn muffins many times over the last couple of decades. None have wowed me enough to make them a second time. The thing is, I love corn muffins. Back in 1994, just before I met Mikey, I had a job as a bank teller at Manufacters Hanover Trust on 14th street. It was a good part-time gig while I was in college. I would go across the street to a diner on Sixth Avenue, and have a bowl of chicken soup and a toasted corn muffin with butter for lunch. I know, a meal fit for an 80 year old, and I was all of 20, but it was pretty cheap, comforting, and most importantly good.

Flash forward some 20 years, and what does one of my best friends bring me back from a recent trip to Washington, D.C.? A sack of white cornmeal from the George and Martha Washington House, located in Mount Vernon, VA. I looked at the sack, and thought “gee, I’m never going to use this before it goes rancid”. My experience with cornmeal is that its highly perishable, and this one was simply in the sack. Plus, it was white cornmeal; I usually only use yellow. Marina also gave me a sheet of recipes that came with the sack. I normally never pay attention to those recipes, but I figured “hey, why not”.

And then I was schooled in baking cornbread. Not just any cornbread. The best cornbread I’ve ever made. I’m very aware that it could be the cornmeal itself, and haven’t yet tried this recipe with regular, ol’ supermarket cornmeal. I have a hunch that while the cornmeal makes a marked difference, it really comes down to the recipe. It has the right ratio of wet to dry ingredients, and just enough butter to add flavor and keep the quick bread from being dry. I’ve made this using Silvana’s multi-purpose flour, too, with great success.

Speaking of cornbread, mine just came out of the oven. I mixed one up before starting this post (it’s that easy, and fast!), and now it’s cooling on the counter for tomorrow morning’s breakfast. And now it’s time for me to tuck in. A busy week awaits, as I get ready to ship the spring issue of the magazine to the printer. Here’s a peek at some of the recipes you’ll see in there.

One Year Ago: 18 Hours in Philly

Two Years Ago: The Gift of Nothing

Three Years Ago: Avocado Bruschetta

Four Years Ago: Bumps in the Night

Five Years Ago: Smoky Cannellini Bean & Red Kale Soup

The Best Cornbread, Ever

Makes one 9-inch loaf

The original recipe called for baking this in an 8-inch square pan. I decided to use one of my loaf pans from Paris. Keep that in mind when it comes to the baking time if you decide to use a different pan size, too.

3/4 cup (117 grams) cornmeal, white or yellow

1 cup (150 grams) flour

1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder

3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt (I used Diamond Crystal)

1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated natural cane sugar

1 cup (237 ml) milk, whole or 2%

1 egg

2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a 9-inch by 3-inch loaf pan with a sheet of parchment paper long enough to hang over the sides of the pan.

Add the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to a deep bowl. Whisk to combine.

Add the milk, egg, and melted butter to a measuring cup or small bowl. Beat with a fork until well mixed. Pour the milk mixture over the cornmeal mixture. Stir with a fork until just mixed, and there are no visible signs of flour.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes, until lightly golden on top (if using white cornmeal, it’ll be barely golden), and the cornbread springs back when tapped with your finger. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting. Wrap any uneaten cornbread in a clean piece of parchment paper, and store at room temperature for up to two days.

9 Comments

  • Brandi

    You lost me at sugar. Cornbread shouldn’t be sweet unless you are using Jiffy mix. Yes, I know this is a regional thing that people disagree on. But my Lowcountry South Carolina roots prohibit sugar in cornbread. It should be savory.

  • Vivian

    REALLY GOOD…if you bake it in an iron skillet…or any iron product.
    i am from the south…it is a staple.

  • Rachel

    I made this tonight! It was fate because I made chili, and I haven’t really found a cornbread that I LOVE yet. Then I see your newest post. 🙂 Great minds! It was wonderful, and a big hit with the fam. Thanks for your sweet blog and your amazing cookbook!! (The chicken pot pie was incredible and I felt your spirit as I made it. It was an honor to honor your late husband.)

  • Robynne

    Two things that have eluded me my entire life… the perfect cornbread… and the perfect banana bread. Interestingly enough I love to sear both sliced until browned and crispy in hot butter. I spent my entire life not knowing that southern cornbread is not sweet like northern corn bread… (who knew right???) So… TWO guilty pleasures rather than one!!! I can’t wait to try this… 🙂

  • Trinity

    These recipes, I agree, sound delicious. Years ago my Mother and I would make banana bread frequently; and sometimes zucchini bread. We discovered not only mashing bananas, but also adding Gerber’s Baby food Banana pudding adds
    moisture, and good texture. Also with zucchini bread, we grated the zucchini’s really fine and drying with flour sacks or cotton towels.