Cornbread has always fallen into that category of things that I wanted to like more. The idea of cornbread has always appealed to me. I have visions of Laura Ingalls in the prairie and Southern kitchens full of cornbread and good will. The reality tended to be disappointing. Either dry and tasteless or overly sweet and sticky. It's a recipe I've been chasing for years.
This morning I felt like baking so I reached for the corn flour. There was a bag of smoked corn flour in the drawer so I added some to bread. That's my first tip right there, corn bread made with corn flour will have a softer, less gritty texture than corn bread made with cornmeal. Bob's Red Mill is my go-to for this and I have never had any motivation to find another brand. Smoking the corn flour will give it a deeper, richer flavor. We cold smoke our corn flour in a shallow container for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.Just be judicious in the amount of smoked flour you add to your mix. A little goes a long way and too much can be overpowering.
I used buttermilk for the liquid in the bread because I wanted a bread that moist and tender. That little bit of tang also helps balance out the sugar in the recipe. I used 1/2 cup of sugar. I'm thinking that I could easily take that down a tablespoon or two, though Alex and Amaya loved it, so maybe not. Quick bread recipes are always warning you not to over-mix things but I'm here to tell you that cornbread needs a certain amount of stirring to develop structure or it just falls apart when you slice it. Thirty to forty strokes is just about right. Lastly, don't over bake it or it will dry out. Cornbread should be just firm to the touch and a cake tester should come out clean. Don't over think things and leave it in there for an extra few minute or your bread will suffer for your caution. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
The finished cornbread was light and tender, sweet and savory, with a buttery corn flavor that lingered on my palate. This bread is happily eaten warm, straight from the pan, possibly with a pat of sweet butter, if that's how you roll. It tends to disappear quickly, though, if you happen to find yourself with a reasonable amount of leftovers, roast chicken with cornbread stuffing could be a wonderful thing on a chilly autumn evening. It's a quick recipe that only took a few decades to get right.
4 ounces / 113 grams unsalted butter
1/2 cup / 100 grams sugar
1/2 teaspoon / 3 grams fine sea salt
2 large eggs (cold)
1 cup / 240 grams buttermilk (cold)
1 cup / 150 grams all purpose flour
1 cup / 150 grams corn flour (sub in 1/4 smoked corn flour for a more savory bread)
1/2 teaspoon / 2.5 grams baking soda
Preheat oven to 375°F. (190°C.)
Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.
Cut the butter into slices and put it in a large microwave safe bowl. Cover the top with plastic wrap and put a vent hole in the wrap. Microwave on high for 30-60 seconds until the butter is melted. Remove the plastic wrap and use a silicone spatula to stir in the sugar and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring the first one into the mixture until it is fully absorbed, before adding the second. Once both eggs have been incorporated, stir in the buttermilk. Once it is mostly mixed in, there may still be streaks of buttermilk in the mixture, add the flour, corn flour, and baking soda. Stir the mixture together, giving the batter 30-40 strokes with your spatula, until it looks creamy and smooth, with just a few small lumps here and there. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, it will have the texture of soft whipped cream. Use the back of a spoon to smooth it into the corners and spread it in an even layer. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is a light golden brown and the bread is cooked through. It should feel feel set when you gently press a finger against the center of the bread and a cake tester will come out clean. Do not over cook the cornbread. Remove from oven and let the bread rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.