Cornbread is something we love!!
For years I would get overly concerned about the ingredients... the type of cornmeal... or using buttermilk.
Have no fear!! Cornbread is one of the easiest things to make and is so difficult to mess up. You just have to be conscious of balancing a few key items.
- Cornmeal to Flour Ratio - so it doesn't end up too dry/dense
- Fat Content - so it doesn't end up too dry
- Acid and Base - to ensure a rise
----will touch on all of these as we move through a simple cooking 'how to'.
Bread v. Cake Note
When baking cornbread it's good to know that you're really baking a butter cake. The dish tends to be more savory and it has taken the name bread only because it's eaten as a substitute for bread. This is perhaps the easiest cake you can make!
Step 1: Ingredients
Here I use the KitchenAid mixer. Know that everything is exactly the same without a mixer... it just takes about an extra 5 minutes because while hand mixing you can't prep the next ingredients.
- Cornmeal 1c - any type works. no need for special cornmeal flour, here I'm using Masa Cornmeal... by far the cheapest option for buying corn meal... we buy it for $.5/lb
- Flour 1c - all purpose works just fine
- Sugar 1/4c - I prefer the minimal amount... you'll find some recipes that go about 1/2 cup... that's way too much for my taste but go with your preference
- Baking Soda 3-4 dashes - I use about 1/4 tsp... I take pride in never measuring for this one... it really doesn't matter. You just have to get enough but not way too much in the mix
- Salt 1/4 tsp
- Spice 1/2 tsp - red pepper flakes
- Fat 1/2c - I never use the full amount... I used 1/4 cup of butter and added about two tablespoons of vegetable oil... that's still less than a half cup but it works for my taste.... you can also substitute shortening or lard or really any fat...
- Eggs 2 - I use two straight from the backyard chickens. They are struggling in the winter as temps drop to -20 this week in MN.
- Milk - Buttermilk is the preferred milk for cornbread. More on this under the mixing step. Here I use a dried buttermilk powder to modify regular milk. ----we love this product for baking and salad dressing. in the mixing bowl we sprinkle directly on wet lettuce rather than dry lettuce
Step 2: Mixing Dry
Really not much to this step.
You can see that I portioned out the amounts for the recipe... mainly because I think it helps towards competing in the instructables competitions!! What I typically do is just use a 1 cup coffee mug and take a scoop of cornmeal and 1 of flour.
Baking Soda Tip - I mentioned in the ingredients that I just shake from the box... in my experience you could probably use anywhere from 1/4 tsp - 1 tsp without noticing much difference. It's easy to care about being exact with baking but if you survey recipes for any dessert... or move between imperial/metric... you know that it's not an exact science... you just need enough for a reaction!
Step 3: Butter
For this recipe we got a little clever. We grated our butter to try and keep the recipe light.... We didn't get the full value because we over beat this mixture... this hack comes from making pie crusts or buttery dough. Still always fun to see the butter work into your mix.
Step 4: Wet Ingredients
The butter, eggs and milk all get incorporated into the dry ingredients (see next step)
Buttermilk Tips - so why do cornbread recipes often call for butter milk? Yes, there are two main reasons.
- Fat content
Buttermilk has more fat. This is a good thing but it can also easily be balanced by adding more fat direct. It also has a higher acid level. This means that when it is added to the dry ingredients it starts reaching with the baking soda. There are two ways to modify regular milk to get the acidity... a third if you want to simply make a substitution.
- Powdered Buttermilk - simply add Saco Powder as directed to regular milk
- Vinegar Method - simply add 1 tablespoon to 1 cup of milk
- Baking Powder, in place of Baking Soda - yes, baking powder has an element that when it becomes wet reacts with the basic baking soda. make sure to add enough... 1-3 tsp of powder.
Step 5: Mixing
Notice how the mixture turns into a crumbly mix... I add all wet ingredients before adding the milk. This is a good practice to delay the reaction between the acidic buttermilk and the basic (ph) dry mix.
Also have the oven preheated to 375F or 190C.
Step 6: Spicing
Last thing. I like to add some red pepper flakes, oregano or jalapenos. East to vary with this last minute add.
Step 8: Grease Pan + Bake
Shortening is my go-to for greasing pans. It sticks to the side better than oil and can be applied heavier in the corners. I also salt the pan to add flavor to the crust.
Step 9: Bake + Enjoy
Bake in an oven preheated to 375F or 190C. It typically takes only about 20-30min. I check at twenty min with a toothpick. If it comes out clean the bake is done!
Cornbread really is a cake. All of the emphasis for keeping it light and moist are the same as if you are baking a cake. Fortunately cornbread is extremely resilient and hard to mess up. Perhaps due to the structure of the cornmeal and fact that we are more forgiving for a cake that doesn't have to be sweet.
Hope you've enjoyed this how-to!
Sorry if the snowman is a bit to creepy...
As always the goal is to learn how to cook with out recipes. Follow for more!
More baking instructables that teach how to not need a recipe...
- Babka Basics - a traditional favorite that looks and tastes beautiful
- Breadmaking - why it's more art than science