Cornbread is a minefield of differing opinions on what should and shouldn't be added. Some of the most hotly contested issues include lard vs. butter, yellow vs. white cornmeal, and the amount of sugar to add. Which side of the debate you fall on depends largely on where you're from.
Folks living in southern states pejoratively refer to the bread from the north as "Yankee Cornbread", likening it to sweet yellow cake. Then you have the half of the country living above the Mason-Dixon line who consider southern cornbread pale, greasy and bland.
But no matter where you're from, one thing I think we can all agree on is that cornbread should taste like corn. So with that in mind, my goal was to make a cornbread that lives up to its name. Then, you can make adjustments and substitutions to to suit your regional tastes.
Because cornbread made with 100% cornmeal tends to be dry crumbly and dense, most cornbread recipes call for a half and half mixture of cornmeal to all-purpose flour. This gives the bread a good texture, but it comes at the cost of diluting the corn flavor. To give the flavor a boost, I used a mixture of cornmeal and masa harina (Mexican nixtamalized corn flour), with just enough all-purpose flour to help the bread rise.
For a triple dose of corn, I also added some fresh sweet corn to the batter, which adds a nice crisp texture, mellow sweetness and extra corn flavor. Made in a cast iron skillet, you get a beautifully golden brown crust on the outside with crunchy, buttery crust along the rim of the pan.
- 1 ear sweet corn
- 156 grams cornmeal (~1 cup)
- 60 grams masa harina (~½ cup)
- 65 grams all-purpose flour (~½ cup)
- 6 grams baking powder (~2 teaspoons)
- 2.5 grams baking soda (~½ teaspoon)
- 12 grams granulated sugar (~1 tablespoons)
- 2.5 grams salt (~ ½ teaspoon)
- 28 grams cultured unsalted butter (2 tablespoons)
- ¾ cup plain yogurt
- ½ cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 14 grams cultured unsalted butter (~1 tablespoon)
- Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C).
- Shuck the corn and remove as much of the silk as possible using a paper towel. Cut the corn off the cob into a bowl and crumble the individual kernels apart so you don't have any big slabs of corn.
- In a medium bowl, add the cornmeal, masa harina, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt. Whisk together to evenly distribute the dry ingredients.
- Add the corn and toss to distribute evenly.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave and let it cool slightly.
- Measure out the the yogurt and milk into a 2 cup liquid measuring cup and then separate the eggs, adding the whites in with the yogurt mixture and the yolks into the melted butter.
- Whisk the yolks and butter until they are fully incorporated and then whisk the yogurt mixture.
- Pour the butter mixture into the yogurt mixture and whisk until fully combined.
- Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to a 8 to 10-inch cast iron skillet and heat over medium high heat.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold the mixture together until evenly mixed.
- Heat an 8-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the butter, and when it is sizzling, swirl it around, coating the sides of the pan as well.
- Pour the cornbread batter into the hot pan and smooth off the top.
- Put the skillet on a baking sheet and put it in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.