Cornbread is easy, universally pleasing, and goes with everything: chili, salads, stews, soups, thanksgiving-y foods, or anything southern. If you preheat your oven and get started on the batter, you’re oven will ding by the time you’re ready to put it in – it’s that quick. Also, I’ve never met someone who doesn’t like cornbread. I made this as part of a “bring a meal to your friend who just had a baby” meal, as I felt sure they’d love it. This cornbread isn’t sweet, it’s savory from the cheese and as a result, would be a great addition to most meals.
Time for a cooking class lesson. Occasionally in the school kitchens my students will show me their sad, gross food and say, “I swear we did everything right!”. I’ll go through the recipe with them, step by step, to figure out where they went wrong. A lot of times it’s a baking powder/soda mix up. One student will sheepishly grin and say, “oh sorry, I didn’t think it mattered that much”. It does.
Baking soda is the original stuff. To rise (or release carbon dioxide bubbles) it needs to come in contact with both a liquid and an acidic ingredient. People wised up back in the 1800’s and came up with baking powder. Baking powder consists of baking soda, as well as a powdered acid. Baking powder just needs to have liquid added for the rise to occur. Baking powder is much more common of a leavening agent (or, an ingredient that makes food rise). When you see both baking powder AND baking soda in a recipe, there is usually a strong acid present. In this case, buttermilk.
Baking is absolutely a science; it requires accurate measuring and rule following. Most people fall into two categories, those who like to bake and those to like to cook. The bakers tend to be type A, they love to follow rules and take pleasure in the knowledge that if they do everything right, things will work out perfectly. They may be perfectionists, and I’ll bet you they’re timely as well. The cooks like to know that with a “little bit of that, a little bit of this”, their food could be better than everyone else’s. They are creative, original, and their cakes usually fall flat. I am more of a baker, by nature. What are you?
Quick Cheddar Cornbread
Slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Makes 9 large servings
1 c. stone ground yellow cornmeal
1 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. buttermilk
2/3 c. milk
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees and spray an 8×8 square baking pan with nonstick spray.
2. Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.
3. Make a well by pushing the mixture up against the sides of the bowl.
4. Crack eggs into the well and mix lightly to break the yolks. Add the buttermilk and milk and mix to combine the wet ingredients. Start to mix it all together by quickly incorporating the dry ingredients as you mix. Do not overmix.
5. Add butter and stir to combine.
6. Add cheddar cheese and stir to combine.
7. Pour mixture into prepared baking pan and bake for 25 minutes – bread should be golden brown. Let cool. Cut into squares and serve warm.
*Cornbread is best served warm, but can be easily reheated. Make within a day or two of serving, and store in an airtight container at room temperature. When ready to eat, wrap in foil and place in a 300 degree oven for about ten minutes or until warmed through.