Should cornbread have flour? What about sugar? And eggs? When it comes to southern cornbread, many home cooks would say no, no, and no. But when it comes to northeastern cornbread, it’s yeses all around. For our test kitchen’s best-ever cornbread, we set out to perfect that northeastern style. Here’s how we did it:
This loaf is buttery, fluffy, just sweet enough, and so quick to come together. Using half cornmeal and half all-purpose flour, our recipe ensures corny flavor with a light, tender crumb. A mix of brown and white sugars adds a malty depth. Shake the buttermilk before pouring and measuring—and make sure it’s at room temperature. If it’s cold, the melted butter will seize up and won’t incorporate into the batter properly. (To temp up the buttermilk, you can let it hang out on the counter for awhile or microwave it in short bursts.) Preheating the cast-iron skillet before adding the cornbread creates a crackly crust. And letting the butter begin to brown before pouring in the batter dials up the loaf’s flavor, big time.
Like all cornbread, this is dreamy still warm from the oven, but it also holds up for a couple of days (wrap well, no need to refrigerate) and it freezes great, too. We love it as much with butter and honey for breakfast as we do plopped next to a bowl of chili for dinner. And if any hangs around long enough to get stale, you can and should turn it into stuffing. —Emma Laperruque
Test Kitchen Notes
This is one of Food52’s Best Recipes. In this series, our test kitchen sets out to create the ultimate version of your favorite recipes. Let us know on the Hotline if there's one you'd love to see next. —Food52
1 (10-inch) round loaf
(140 grams) finely ground cornmeal
(128 grams) all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons
1 1/3 cups
well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature
Turn on the oven to 400°F. Stick a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron pan inside.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir until combined.
Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a small pot or the microwave. Combine the buttermilk, egg, and both sugars in a small bowl. Stir with a fork or whisk until smooth. While stirring, pour the melted butter into the buttermilk mixture. Keep stirring until smooth.
Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the dry and stir until smooth.
Use oven mitts to pull the cast-iron pan from the oven and set on the stove over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the pan and let melt until it just starts to brown. Pour in the cornbread batter and shake gently to smooth out.
Bake the cornbread for 20 to 25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean and the sides are beginning to pull away from the edges of the pan. Cool at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.