This year I am launching a regular series called “Bridal Basics.” Back when I was in my mid-twenties (which I promise was not that long ago!) and all my friends and I were starting careers and moving out on our own, it became apparent that a lot people my age did not know the first thing about how to prepare a meal. Cooking – whether you enjoy it or loathe it – is a basic skill everyone needs to have.
I thought it would be neat to write some sort of guide for new cooks and that’s actually how the idea for this blog was born. So in a way I’m going back to my roots. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not changing the focus of the blog. I’ll still be posting recipes like what you are used to. But once or twice a month, I’ll focus on basics. You can find a listing of all the recipes under the Resources section of the site.
Basic cornbread is a great recipe for anyone interested in learning how to bake. It requires only a few simple ingredients and is relatively easy to prepare. It’s also a “must have” in any Southern kitchen. You are not a true Southern cook if you don’t know how to make cornbread.
A few tips for making perfect cornbread:
- Overmixing the batter can result in dry cornbread. Thoroughly combine all your dry ingredients together in one bowl. Combine all your wet ingredients together in a separate bowl. Gently stir them together with a wooden spoon (leave your electric mixer in the cabinet, it will overmix your ingredients.) Combine just until the dry ingredients are moist. If you have a couple of lumps in the batter, that’s okay.
- Making cornbread in a dark colored pan gives you the crackly crust most people desire. That’s why you see most people baking theirs in a cast iron skillet. The Husband actually bought me my first cast iron skillet for the sole purpose of making cornbread. That’s what I always bake mine in. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, an 8 x 8 casserole dish is fine, you just won’t have that brown crust. Believe me when I tell you, there is something unbeatable about cornbread baked in a skillet.
- Some cooks will also tell you to preheat the skillet before dumping in your batter. This also contributes to a golden brown crust.
- Use exact measurements. With cooking, you can get away with “eyeballing” measurements. Not the case with baking. There is a scientific formula to a recipe used to baking and too much or too little of an ingredient can product drastically different results.
- Make sure your ingredients are fresh. Expired baking powder will lose its ability to make breads rise. Stale cornmeal can have the same effect and cause your cornbread to taste musty. I usually store my cornmeal in the freezer so it will last longer.
This recipe is from The Husband’s side of the family and is the one I always reference when I need to make a batch. In fact, I have the instructions typed up on a cheat sheet I keep taped to the inside of my spice cabinet so I don’t have to search for the recipe every time I want to make it.
My cheat sheet. Yes, it’s dog-eared and stained.
I do have one secret ingredient I throw in to keep my cornbread moist – shredded cheese! Not enough to make it taste cheesy, although you can certainly add more to the batter if that’s what you want. I only add a very small handful. You don’t even taste the cheese but it does wonders for the moisture and consistency of the bread.
Once you have mastered this basic recipe, feel free to start experiment with add-ins for a more unique flavor. I have seen cornbread recipes that include sausage, jalapenos, honey, and a variety of herbs and spices.
Traditional Southern Skillet Cornbread
- 2 cups self-rising white cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ cup shredded cheese
- 1½ cups milk
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spray skillet with a light coating of cooking spray. Wipe the skillet out with a paper towel. Sprinkle the bottom of the skillet with a little bit of cornmeal. Place skillet in the hot oven and allow to preheat for five minutes.
- In the meantime, combine cornmeal, baking powder, and cheese in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the milk and the eggs.
- Pour batter into the hot skillet. Allow to bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.