How to Make the Best Cornbread. Ever.

Corn bread.

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.

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Corn Bread
(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!


Ingredients:
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 egg
1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons melted butter

Directions:
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.

Serves 4-6.
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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!

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Be sure to take a look at our follow-up post with several modifications to try with this basic cornbread recipe!

Related Posts:
Blueberry Coffee Cake: Nostalgia Foods
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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40 comments:

MCM Voices said...

Hullo Daniel - what is it about this corn bread that nox your sox off? The recipe I've used for several years is exactly the same except for the quantity of baking powder - 2 tsp in my recipe, 5 in yours. I plan to try this soon, with stone ground meal.

In answer to your question - I love corn bread with butter. And if it's plain corn bread I might have a second piece with butter and honey. Usually, though, I added chopped jalapenos and some grated sharp cheese to the recipe (and one must leave the sugar out in that case), so just butter on that kind of corn bread!

Yum.

Jeff D said...

Definitely going to give this a try.

As for what goes on the cornbread...peanut butter of course :)

KMAYS said...

I like butter and honey on mine. I keep meaning to make cornbread, but I really want to use my cast iron skillet when I do. I'm sure this recipe would probably work in that, yes?

Daniel Koontz said...

Hi Mary, nice to hear from you!

I was a bit shocked by the recipe calling for 5 tsps of baking powder, but it comes out perfectly every time. And I guess this recipe is so great because it's basic, delicious (in a sweet but not too sweet way), and--like almost all of the recipes we make here at Casual Kitchen--really easy to make.

PS: I love your jalapenos suggestion. I had some really sweet cornbread with jalapenos in a bakery in NYC the other week and it was spectacular even with the sugar in the batter. it was a really creative mix of tastes that I didn't expect to be so good.

Jeff D: Peanut butter!! Love it. Thanks for your comment.

Hi KMAYS: You can definitely make this in a skillet although this is not a stovetop cornbread recipe. You'll need to put the whole skillet in your oven. As long as you can fit the full batch of batter into the skillet, I don't see why it wont work.

Don't forget to wear your oven mitts when you take it out. :)

Also, there definitely are stovetop cornbread recipes out there. Perhaps I can do a cornbread recipe linkfest at some point!

DK

Cousin Jeff said...

I'm going to tell a story on the Koontz family (at least my side of the family). An occasional dessert was something my dad (Dan's uncle) called "Cornmeal Mush" where he'd drop pieces of cornbread in a glass of milk, mash it with a fork, dump it out on a plate and pour maple syrup over it. I'm not sure if that goes back to his childhood with my uncle (Dan's father), but is still an occasional treat for me. Thanks for the recipe update!

Jeff
Nashville TN

Daniel Koontz said...

Hey Jeff,
I haven't heard of that one on my side of the family but I'll ask my father if it rings a bell from his childhood.

Thanks for your comment!

DK

Amanda said...

Cornmeal is one of those staples in the US from the early days. Cornbread with sugar in it is what southerners call "Yankee Cornbread." Southern cornbread contains no sugar and, as I learned by watching some fine southern ladies, is often made by eye, only with a fork in hand! I often make it only with cornmeal (self-raising, so it already has baking powder/soda), mayonnaise and milk (amounts by eye), resulting in a yummy accompaniment to pinto beans! Mmm...

Daniel Koontz said...

Thanks for your thoughts Amanda!

Funny you should mention southern cornbread... I'm about to put together a post on some of the road eats we had on our recent trip to the Carolinas and Georgia.

DK

Mumsicles said...

This transplanted Yankee puts extra sugar, grated cheddar, corn and diced chilis in her cornbread. The teenagers love it with a little butter or a good dunk in the accompanying homemade split pea soup.
So funny I should read this today, as that is exactly what I'm making for dinner tonight!

Tami said...

Sounds like an excellent recipe.

My favorite topping is butter--but I'm a dunker, too, into homemade soup. YUM!

Peanut butter is a new one for me. That's the first I've heard anyone say that.

Shayne said...

WOW I have not seen Indian Head corn meal since I was a kid

Kevin R said...

This recipe was amazing. I really need to get some good corn meal, though. I'm on a quest to make the perfect corn bread, and this seems to be a perfect spring board. I wrote about it here: http://venividicoxi.blogspot.com/2009/01/corn-bread-1.html

Also, I dipped it in split pea soup that I made from your recipe. It was awesome.

Anonymous said...

This other transplanted Yankee puts diced chilis and corn in the cornbread and queso on top. Thanks for the recipe

kate said...

One of the best means for achieving a perfect cornbread, one that is a bit moist and a lot tender, is to add a 4-oz can of creamed corn to the recipe. I've done this for ages and it comes out perfect every time. I change the ratio of flour to cornmeal, adding more cornmeal and less flour for a deeper corn flavor.

I also like adding a small can of green chiles, sometimes fresh jalapeno and very sharp cheddar and always eating it with whipped honey butter.

Morta Di Fame said...

Thank you! I have been looking for such a recipe for a while and will bookmark this and try it out. Maybe with some veggie chili!

Rose said...

oooh! I love cornbread! DELICIOUS!

JJ (Lady Di) said...

I alternate between Southern and Northern Cornbread when I make it. I usually just use honey, but for the next day when we have leftovers (there's just two of us) and I've made the not as sweet one- molasses. Now I'm a blackstrap gal, but the regular one will work too. :)

Anonymous said...

I eat beans with my cornbread. I am working on a self-made black bean chili to be eat with my cornbread.

chelsea said...

Mmm, this looks so good. Thanks for the notes, I'll look for that kind of corn meal next time I am at a store. And I generally prefer honey on my corn bread.

Amber said...

Honey and butter every time! I love cornbread, I'll have to give this one a try for sure!

Lyn Bailey said...

anna thomas' epiture's leek vinaigrette on p. 102 is The Best Ever.

she knows that maize, try her polenta dishes*

Bakah said...

I just made this and it came out okay, it definitely should be cooked at a lower temperature and it needs WAY MORE SUGAR!!!!

Daniel said...

I think the issue of sugar and cornbread is a totally personal issue. For me the sugar content in this recipe is perfect... not too sweet, not too savory. But if you'd like to add more sugar, by all means feel free to do so.

Of course the debate on whether cornbread should even have sugar in it -- which is a North-South cultural debate in the USA -- is way beyond the scope of this post. ;)

DK

Anonymous said...

Just made it for my first time came out good
Thanks for the tip from Thelma in Manteca ca

Foxy said...

Thank you for this my kids love it, and it is so easy to make.
great for partys warm out of the oven, and makes the house s,ell homely

The Calico Cat said...

Way late to this party (Friday Catch-up will do that to ya.)

I use freshly milled corn (I live close enough the President Washington's Mount Vernon mill, which is my source.)

Cornbread is the "only" thing that I butter.
(dry toast, plain baked potato, plain corn on the cab - seriously this is the only thing that I butter.)
Thanks for the pie plate tip!

lydiel1 said...

I love to put butter and honey

Anonymous said...

Corn Bread? More like ca-hones bread.

Anonymous said...

this cornbread came out salty as hell !!!!!! its to much fucking baking powder and not enough sugar >_< this shit is retarded and thanks for letting me spend my last bit of cornmeal on that shitty ass cornbread !!!!!!!!

Daniel said...

Wow, okay. I have to say, your opinion differs dramatically from the consensus. But hey, everybody's taste is different. Thanks for sharing your feedback.

DK

Daniel said...

Anon: one other distinct possibility: you inadvertantly left out or mismeasured the sugar.

Occasionally people accidentally put in four *teaspoons* of sugar rather than *Tablespoons* of sugar because they misread the next item in the recipe, which is the 5 teaspoons of baking powder. I've also totally forgotten to add the sugar on occasion too. And yes, the cornbread comes out salty tasting when that happens. :)

Good luck!

DK

Ysanna said...

I love cornbread with melted cheese or coconut butter.YUMMY!!!

Anonymous said...

I have just made this "cornbread" for the first time ever. I'm from Aus, so this is NEW for mwa.
Very tasty! Have only tried it with butter atm. Just a little crumbly though, how do I fix this? I did add extra oil/butter given the cornmeal/polenta. Probably not enough though, hey? Still this receipe is "SO GOOD". I'll get a bit experimental next time and spice it up some, nice! Thank-you

Daniel said...

Hi Anon, cornbread is just naturally a bit crumbly... it just comes out that way. Not really anything to fix to be honest.

DK

Anonymous said...

This is great fried too! :O) Thank you!

Demitrieus Kahn said...

Im a long time cornbread eater, it was a major part of my diet in america, now i live in New zealand and down here i make my own, this reciepe is much like that though i use a little less baking powder and a little more butter, i also on occasion add cheese and bacon to the mix before i fry it, a tip also it to make sure you over ( or pan ) in my case is, is warmed

bjgj said...

Made boxed corn muffins yesterday. Wanted more muffins today, so I found this recipe. I love it. I increased the oven to 400 and baked muffins for 15 minutes. Increased sugar to 5 tbsps. They were more tender than the boxed muffin mix and not too sweet. I will make my own from now on and try some of variatons. This recipe made 8 large muffins.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with MCM, too much baking powder. I am not a very experienced cook but when I made your cornbread with your recipe I had a distinct taste of baking powder. I would think maybe the two teaspoons would be plenty.

Leah said...

Found this recipe a few years ago when I was looking for the Vegetarian Epicure one. Thanks for helping me make my dad's cornbread all the way over in Japan!

Anonymous said...

how do u make corn bread for a diabetic? more people need to remember the diabetics.