[67] Skillet Cornbread

Cover of The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond

There’s really nothing like a big pot of chili for wintertime, but one cannot live on chili alone. At least, not this one. Chili is a wonderful, hearty main dish; indeed it’s almost a one-pot meal. However, I always want something to go with it. I don’t always make something to go with the chili, but I always want it. Usually my unaccompanied chili is lunchtime leftovers from the freezer.

However, when I make a pot of chili for the first time, it usually calls out for cornbread. Hell, I bet you could say it ALWAYS calls out for cornbread. And I love cornbread enough that I basically always answer the call. Usually by opening a $0.69 blue box.

Whatever’s in those blue boxes has always been kind of my standard for cornbread. They’re really easy and quite tasty to make. I certainly don’t recall making cornbread from scratch before this recipe, and most people I’ve fed it to have quite enjoyed it, so I haven’t really felt the need to branch out.

Well, it turns out that making cornbread from scratch is really not a lot harder than making it from a mix. And this cornbread 1) tastes utterly different from and 2) so much better than the blue box. I likely will never go back.

Cornbread, piping hot from the oven!


h2. Ingredients

1 c yellow cornmeal
1/2 c all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

1 c buttermilk (Or milk soured with vinegar, 1 tbsp vinegar to 1 c milk)

1/2 milk (I feel like I should say, “Sweet milk” here. I’m pretty sure that’s what Grandma Ella would say, & it’s a good indicator in a recipe like this.)

1 egg

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 c + 2 tbsp shortening (We used butter, as usual.)


h2. Instructions

Preheat the oven to 450F. Mix together all the dry ingredients except the baking soda. In another bowl (or even just the biggest measuring cup, if you used a 2+ cup one, like I did), mix together the milks and beat in the egg, then stir the baking soda into the liquids. Slowly pour the milk mix into the dry mix, and stir until the dry mixture basically all wet. Don’t over-stir or worry about small lumps. Then melt the 1/4 shortening/butter in the microwave and add it to the batter, again only stirring until everything’s just combined.

In a cast-iron skillet, melt the other 2 tbsp fat over high heat. Pour the batter into the hot skillet, even out if necessary, cook for 1 minute on the stove-top, then transfer the skillet to the preheated oven. Bake 20 – 25 minutes, until the edges are golden and crispy and you want to just eat the whole thing at a go.

h2. Cooking and Consumption Notes

h3. Cooking

First, I love the step of adding the baking soda to the buttermilk mix. Getting that acid + base reaction going right away and producing gas right away probably gives this cornbread some extra rise. Especially for a lowered cooking time (which might happen if I change a few cooking techniques up), that’s an exciting thing. However, it does mean you want to mix it with the dry ingredients fast after you’ve started that reaction and get it cooking quickly as well. Wouldn’t want all that wonderful chemistry to escape.

Cornbread is basically just another quick bread, at least as far as I’m concerned. Any rise in the batter comes from non-yeast leveners; the egg, baking soda and baking powder. Thus, like other quick breads, it’s pretty important to get all the dry ingredients moistened quickly, but not over-beat the batter and make it tough.

I suspect over-beating is less of a problem for cornbread, though, because most of the structure in cornbread comes from cornmeal (basically corn flour) and not wheat flour. No wheat flour means no gluten formation, and that’s most of what makes an over-beaten muffin or zucchini loaf (or pancake!) tough. Still, I wouldn’t want to test my theory! (Well, okay, I would, but not on a night when dinner’s got to be on the table soon.)

In the “Learn from Natasha’s Mistakes” Category, I present:

# Don’t forget to preheat your oven
# Put your pan over high heat.

I managed to screw up both of those. I’ve always been told that cornbread batter should basically make a seared crust the moment it hits the pan. So some folks preheat it with the oven (which, honestly, is kind of an awesome way to cook). In this case, the recipe doesn’t seem to expect that instant sear, but a pretty quick crust should form. Which is really helped by having an appropriately hot pan.

As for preheating the oven? Well, let’s just say when the chili’s about 30 minutes from done and the cornbread is still 40+ minutes away, you forget things and cut corners. Like, say, you forget to preheat the oven, and then you say, “Screw it!” and pop the cornbread in the oven before it’s done preheating.

It came out gorgeous anyway. I like recipes that are fairly robust.


h3. Consumption

We won’t get into the debates about whether cornbread should contain sugar or not, because I only know that there ARE cultural ramifications, I don’t know what they are. All I know is that I tend to like sweet things, I’m pretty sure the blue box contains sugar, I’m pretty sure I’ve had cornbread with no sugar and not been a fan, and this recipe doesn’t contain sugar.

I was suspicious of this recipe.

I pondered it. I contemplated it. I considered the fact that it might actually be evil.

Then I made it, and it was the best cornbread I’ve ever had. One, that buttermilk tang was out of this world. So perfect. I really can’t imagine making this recipe with just soured milk1, because it won’t have exactly that flavor that’s just so right.

Two, this cornbread had a goodly butter flavor to it without having butter added to it. It made it extra tasty to have with the chili. And I’m certain it will be extra-super-tasty with my personal chili recipe2, since that’s proper chili.

The fact that next time I’ll aim to make a proper sear on the cornbread has NO BEARING on the fact that it will be extra-super-tasty with my chili.


fn1. I’ll probably end up making it with soured milk at some point anyway, just because I’ll want cornbread and not have buttermilk on hand. I’ll report back.

fn2. Okay, so, it’s not exactly MY recipe. It started as a vegetarian recipe from a friend of a friend. Then I modified it from a slow-cooker recipe to a stove-top recipe, with Angelique’s help. Then I modified it some more to change out the meat. Then I changed up the spices a bit. So I call it mine now, even though it’s really kind of Anastasia’s and Turtle-Maria’s and Angelique’s too. I love it, and Bill’s said he’d like some of it this winter.

6 thoughts on “[67] Skillet Cornbread

    • Thanks! It took way more than 10 minutes, though.

      Bill said the ingredients shot was v. nice and made him want the cornbread all over again. So we might have another redo post soon!

    • 1) Nah, the chili you helped create is delicious! Also, not the chili posted here. 🙂

      2) Sweet milk is “just” milk. Not soured or buttermilk. Possibly it is whole milk, specifically, but I didn’t learn it that way.

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