It might be the easiest of all bread recipes. It's an unintimidating starting point for beginners who want to learn the pleasures of baking. And it combines simple, honest ingredients into a deliciously textured, not-too-sweet bread. Cornbread is almost like dessert, but with little sugar and even less guilt.
I've been making corn bread for years and have always liked it, but I'd never found a recipe that really knocked my socks off. Until now. I believe I've now found the perfect cornbread recipe, buried in a cookbook we've had on our shelves for more than ten years. A cookbook that I just hadn't properly exploited before.
And to any of my readers new to baking, this is an ideal recipe to get your feet wet. You might have a few startup costs for some baking or mixing tools, but because this recipe is so easy and so delicious, it is an extremely encouraging way for a novice chef to get started down the road towards baking other foods.
I guarantee that this cornbread will be a home run in your home.
(very slightly adapted from The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas)
PS: be sure to take a look at this follow-up post with several cornbread modification ideas!
1 1/4 cups white flour
3/4 cup whole grain corn meal (can use regular degerminated corn meal--see note 1 below)
4 Tablespoons sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1) Preheat oven to 375F.
2) Sift dry ingredients together into a large bowl.
3) Beat the egg with the milk and add to the dry ingredients. Quickly add the melted butter and stir with a rubber scraper until ingredients are combined well.
4) Spread the batter into a buttered 9-inch pie dish.
5) Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes, or until it is lightly browned around the edges, or until a fork stuck into the center of the pan comes out clean. Serve hot.
Five brief recipe notes:
1) A note on types of corn meal: This dish will come out well if you use regular corn meal, but it will have an even better texture if you use whole grain corn meal. If you can find Indian Head Old Fashioned Stone Ground Yellow Corn Meal in your store (see the photo to the right), get it--it's a steal at about $1.59 for a two-pound bag. In contrast, regular corn meal (Quaker is a typical brand), is both degerminated and is more finely and uniformly milled. Here's an instance where the "finer" product just isn't quite as good.
2) Try making this corn bread in a buttered pie dish rather than a more traditional square baking pan. A wider, flatter pie pan exposes more surface area of the batter to heat, so the cornbread cooks more evenly throughout. It was also quite easy to cut and scoop out pieces, and cleanup was a snap.
3) Laughable cheapness alert: This entire batch of cornbread can be made for well under $1.00. To put this in context, I used to pay $1.79 each day for a mediocre cornmeal muffin on the way into work--more than it cost me to buy an entire two-pound bag of corn meal. Yet again more evidence that you can cook food at home that is not only less expensive, but often much higher quality, than anything you can find in stores or restaurants.
4) A note to beginning bakers on start-up costs: To make this recipe, you'll need to add some tools to your kitchen: an inexpensive flour sifter, some inexpensive mixing bowls, measuring cups and measuring spoons, an electric mixer, and obviously, a pie pan. I'd guesstimate that you can get good-quality examples of all these items at a discount department store for around $50. That might seem like a lot, but keep in mind that this is a one-time expense that's well less than the cost of a nice dinner out for two. Also, all of these items will last for years--even decades! Heck, I'm still using an electric hand mixer that I bought for $19 back in 1991.
If you'd like some more ideas on how to save money on kitchen items like these, feel free to take a look at a post I wrote on managing kitchen setup costs.
5) Finally, a question for my readers: What do you like to put on your cornbread? Butter? Maple syrup? Strawberry jam? Let me know in the comments!
Be sure to take a look at our follow-up post with several modifications to try with this basic cornbread recipe!
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Cookbook Exploitation: How to Get More Mileage Out of Your Cookbooks
Eight Tips to Make Cooking At Home Laughably Cheap
More Applications of the 80/20 Rule to Diet, Food and Cooking
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