I kind of hate myself for publishing another summer recipe that requires the oven. I hope you don’t hate me for it (but I understand if you do).
After 26 years in Oklahoma, I associate August with oppressive, unrelenting, oven-banning, 100-plus degree heat. And sweat. I don’t know if you can see the picture of me in the sidebar right now, but I have a whole lot of hair on my head. I feel like I’m wearing a wool turban at all times, which is to say that I’m not so cute when it’s 100 degrees outside. I’m mostly just cranky.
The past two summers in Kansas City have been pleasant by comparison. This summer in particular has been gloriously mild. It’s seventy-eight degrees outside right now!
I don’t hate summer up here. I actually like it. No, I love it. I love the long days, the sunshine and the infectious energy in the air. This week, I got a hankering for some cornbread and turning on the oven didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Why not?
Now, I know that Northerners and Southerners have conflicting opinions about how cornbread should taste. The cornbread I grew up eating in Oklahoma came from a blue box, so I don’t feel qualified to join the debate. As such, I came up with my own ideal cornbread.
Here it is: brown butter and honey skillet cornbread studded with summer peppers and fresh corn from the cob. It boasts crispy edges and a balanced sweet-and-savory flavor. I have a whole skillet’s worth to myself. Ha!
Feel free to play with this recipe to turn it into your ideal cornbread. The cheese in this cornbread is just an accent flavor, so if you want legitimately cheesy cornbread, double the cheese. For sweeter flavor, increase the sweetener to 2/3 cup. Next time I make this cornbread, I’ll go the extra mile and roast my corn and peppers in the oven beforehand (tossed with a little olive oil and salt) for some caramelized flavor. For basic cornbread with extraordinary texture and flavor, just skip the fresh corn and peppers.
Whatever you do, don’t reduce the amount of butter. I firmly believe that cornbread, like brownies, should contain high quality ingredients, exceptional flavor and plenty of butter. Great cornbread or bust!
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1½ cups medium grind cornmeal, preferably stone ground
- 1½ cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour or flour of choice
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt or 2 teaspoons regular salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- Few twists' freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup shredded Jack or cheddar cheese, divided (for cheesy cornbread, use 1 cup cheese)
- 1½ cups buttermilk (or 1 cup plain yogurt mixed with ½ cup water)
- ½ cup honey
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large corn on the cob, shucked (to yield about ¾ to 1 cup corn kernels)
- 1 red or orange bell pepper, finely chopped
- 2 medium jalapeños, ribs removed and finely chopped
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the middle of the oven. Place the stick of butter in a 10 to 12-inch cast iron skillet or 9-inch square baking dish and place in the oven to melt for the next 5 to 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and black pepper. Stir in about half of the cheese. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, honey and eggs until smooth. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until moistened through.
- When the butter is melted and golden brown but not burnt, carefully remove the sizzling skillet from the oven and swirl to coat with butter. Add the corn kernels and chopped peppers to the skillet, stir and let them sizzle for about 30 seconds. Pour the entire contents of the pan into the batter and stir just until incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the hot skillet or baking pan. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Return the skillet to the oven and bake until the bread is brown around the edges, springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with just a few crumbs, 25 to 35 minutes. Invert the bread onto a wire rack to cool. Slice into squares or wedges. Serve with more butter, preferably salted, on the side.
Make it gluten free: I suspect that using a gluten-free flour blend in place of the whole wheat flour would make some great cornbread. Please let me know if you try it.
Serving suggestions: I think this cornbread would be a pretty epic accompaniment to my butternut chili, sweet potato chili, spicy black bean soup or tortilla soup.
Storage suggestions: This cornbread should keep well in a sealed container for a couple of days. For longer-term storage, store slices in a freezer-safe bag in the freezer. It should keep well in the freezer for a couple of months.
Change it up: Sub maple syrup for the honey. Play around with the mix-ins. Add more cheese. You can't go wrong here.
Recommended equipment: 12-inch cast iron skillet.