In France, almost all breads are wheat flour-based, so my first experience with cornbread was a real treat. I love the sweetness of the corn. The texture, when prepared properly, is fluffy and light, but all too often I've had cornbread that was overly dry and crumbly.
After much experimentation, I've created an ultra moist cornbread recipe that is also easy to make. As proof, the cornbread you seen in the pictures was made by my 13-year-old sister-in-law, Sunny. I gave her the recipe last night and this morning she cooked it from scratch on her own.
For flavor, I added both pickled and roasted jalapeños and parmesan cheese. I think these ingredients are the best complements to the natural sweetness of the corn. You could also add finely chopped nuts or chopped dried cranberries if you wanted a more sweet / tart flavor.
If you're feeling a bit apprehensive about preparing homemade cornbread this year, just remember, if a 13 -year-old can do it, so can you.
Servings: 10 servings
1 cup corn meal
1¼ cups all-purpose flour, (18 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1¼ teaspoons salt
4 eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 (8.75-ounce) can corn kernels, drained
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon shortening
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon pickled jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, roasted, skinned, seeded and finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
When the temperature has reached 400°F, place a 12-inch cast iron skillet in the oven and heat it while preparing the cornbread batter.
In a bowl, combine the flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sift these ingredients.
In a mini-blender (or a regular blender if you don't have a mini), coarsely pulse the corn kernels with ¼ cup of milk.
Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs with granulated sugar until you get a pale, yellow foam. Add the maple syrup and roasted jalapeño pepper. Using a wooden spatula, continuously stir while adding the dried ingredient mix, corn meal, melted butter, buttermilk, remaining milk, olive oil, pickled jalapeño, brown sugar and coarsely puréed corn kernels. Stir well until smooth and wet. Do NOT over-mix for a light result.
Place the shortening in a small piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper. Open the oven and remove the skillet. Immediately swirl and spread the shortening inside the cast iron skillet. Add the remaining shortening from the aluminum foil to the cornbread batter.
Transfer the cornbread batter into the hot skillet. Bake for about 10 minutes at 375°F, then lower the heat to 350°F for another 20 minutes. Open the oven; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, rotate the skillet for a homogenous result and cook for 10-15 more minutes. A skewer or a toothpick inserted into the cornbread should come out clean. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool. Flip out the cornbread, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Sifting dry ingredients helps get rid of nasty lumps of flour and aerates the mixture when liquid is added. It's very important for all your baking so you get a moist result.
I added canned corn kernels so corn could be visible after it's baked.
For a moist result, you want the cornbread batter to be wet and rather sticky. Also make sure not to over-mix it.
Per Carole's advice, we tested baking the batter in different sized cast iron skillets. The 9.5-inch skillet produces a very moist cornbread (about 3-inch thick). The 15-inch one was much thinner with crunchier egdes. The winner was the one baked in the 12-inch skillet.
If you prefer stronger flavors, you can increase the amount of pickled jalapeños and replace the parmesan with sharp yellow cheddar.