All-Purpose Cornbread / by Cynthia Raub

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Cornbread is what happens when my two favorite things: corn and bread, get a little crazy - one thing leads to another, and 25 minutes later . . . they make a baby. A crumbly, slightly sweet, and aromatic baby. A cornbread baby that begs for a pat of butter or a drizzle of honey on it’s warm browned top. The variations in cornbread can make one dizzy. People get crazed and lose their minds when it comes to the “right” or “best” way to make it. Street brawls, wars, divorces . . . sadly, all started by disagreements over cornbread. And if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s to avoid the following topics for the sake of polite conversation: religion, politics, and you guess it, cornbread. When Amy said she was making Chicken Chili, I grabbed the basic pantry items for this recipe, got pants on my kids, and drove to her house to cook and eat. This cornbread was the perfect unfussy accompaniment to her tomato-y chili.

Notes: This is a solid recipe for a basic and uncomplicated cornbread that will not let you down. Pureeing (fresh, frozen or canned) corn kernels into the wet ingredients will give you the distinct flavor you won’t get from cornmeal alone, and a sweetness that honey cannot replicate. According to Cook’s Illustrated, this recipe calls for the cornbread to be cooked at a high temperature in a regular baking pan to produce a crunchy, toasted crust. If you’re a cast-iron skillet for everything (especially cornbread) type, you can ratchet down the temperature for this recipe since the skillet will produce a golden crust with less heat.

Yes, this recipe calls for a stick of butter. But it’s not like you’re going to eat the whole pan by yourself, right? Right . . . ? OK, even if you do eat the whole pan by yourself, (Go you! Now THAT’S commitment!) just remember that chewing and breathing burns calories too. You're a winner and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Servings: 8"x8" pan
Time: 45 minutes

Cook's Illustrated All-Purpose Cornbread

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, adjust oven rack to the middle position. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish or cake round, set aside.

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until combined.

In a food processor or blender, process brown sugar, thawed corn kernels, and buttermilk until combined, about 5 pulses. Add eggs to the wet mixture and process until combined (corn pieces will remain), about 5 more pulses.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; pour wet ingredients into the well. Fold dry ingredients into wet, mixing until barely incorporated. Add melted butter and continue folding until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Pour batter into prepared baking dish, smooth surface with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 25-35 minutes until golden brown, and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Slice and enjoy!

Adapted From: Cook's Illustrated