Monday, February 8, 2010

A Good (Northern) Cornbread for Chili

I always thought that southern skillet cornbread was exactly the way cornbread should be. It turns out I had no idea what southern cornbread was. I thought it was rich, buttery, fluffy and at least a little sweet. In actuality, it's dry, crumbly and flat and most southerners would probably hang me for suggesting sugar in their cornbread.
The vision I had in my head really resembles more of a corn cake. Very fluffy, eggy and sweet. The kind of thing you could eat for dessert without any accompaniment. I made various different attempts, altering my recipe each time, and finally decided that corn cake would not be appropriate after all. One day I will go back to that idea and probably combine recipes for cornbread and white cake, but for now I went with a compromise. This is for chili, after all.
I played with my recipe a little bit more and came up with a good middle of the road cornbread. It's fluffy due to the 5(!) eggs, with a good moist crumb but not as sweet as a cake. I tried making it first with oil and then with half oil/half butter. The difference really wasn't noticeable and not worth the extra saturated fat. In the future I will stick with oil unless I try making it in a skillet.

In the end I was very happy with the results. It had the right balance of texture and sweetness for the chili and proved to be even better warmed up and topped with just a bit of salted butter and maple syrup. I'll confess, I even ate it for lunch one day ;)

Northern Cornbread
Serves 18.
2 cups stone ground yellow cornmeal
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup raw (turbinado) sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cup skim milk (or 2% or whole)
1 cup extra light tasting olive oil
5 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan (at least 2 inches deep, pyrex works well)

In a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the milk, buttermilk, oil and eggs. Turn mixer to low and add the cornmeal mixture until just combined. 
DO NOT OVERBEAT or the cornbread will be tough.
Batter will be wet and a little lumpy but that's okay.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the corn bread is pulling away at the edges. 


  1. I am all about northern anything, and cornbread is right up there with the best of them. Southern skillet cornbread, while ok for some applications, to me needs copious amounts of melted butter and a lot of honey to make it go down smoothly. I really hate fighting against my food when I'm hungry.

    I've been adding a small can of creamed corn to my cornbread for what seems like forever and everyone I serve it to raves over how moist and tender it is. It's still cornbread, with a somewhat crusty top, but the interior is delectable and more importantly, palatable. If I am forgetful to keep a few tiny cans on hand, a cup of frozen corn whizzed in a blender with the liquid from the recipe makes a fine substitute. In fact, a pan of these golden squares is sitting on my counter as I type. Calling me.

  2. This recipe was quite a hit at the Superbowl! I might halve the recipe next time cause for some reason I think of cornbread as being pretty thin? This rose a lot (like you said) and was about 2 inches thick. Very delicious nonetheless. A success for my first time making cornbread. Very easy too - I had all the ingredients (minus the buttermilk) on hand.

  3. Kate- I totallly agree about the southern cornbread. butter. excessive amounts of butter. Your corn suggestions sound interesting I will definitely be trying the frozen blended one next time thanks!

    Cath-I'm glad it came out well! I always have another recipe that I grew up making. It's not as thick due to fewer eggs. Also if you don't have buttermilk you could easily replace the buttermilk with milk and vinegar like we did on new years. You could also just switch it out entirely for 2% or whole milk not 100% skim though because you are losing the fat in the buttermilk.


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