Sweet Cornbread

So, before our kitchen was renovated, I had difficulty with food styling and photographing because I was so limited. At first, it was just a matter of experience; I needed practice and to develop an 'eye' for it. But once I got the hang of it, I was still being held back because we didn't have any surfaces that were worthy of photographing, I didn't want to include any of our kitchen in the background because it was so ugly, and the lighting was subpar. But now, all of that has changed and I feel so free! Hopefully, you've noticed positive changes in my photography too. I feel like I'm learning so much and so quickly. It's a lot of fun.

Anyway, enough rambling. Today's entry is a continuation of last week's posts about Thanksgiving side dishes. Cornbread is one of the most comforting, warm side dishes. It's so fluffy, the color is a lovely yellow, and you get to smother it in honey and butter. What could be bad about that? I'm channeling Ina Garten big time with that last sentence.
I previously posted a more savory cornbread recipe which I like to use when I'm making cornbread stuffing. But, the cornbread that gets tossed in a basket next to the butter dish? I want that cornbread to be sweeter. I'm just a fan of sweet cornbread and if you are too, this is a great recipe.

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg
½ stick + 1 teaspoon butter
¾ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup corn (optional, fresh or frozen)

Before we get into the recipe, I want to talk about this cast iron dish. I purchased it from World Market (currently unavailable online) for just $9.99. What a steal. It's weighty and well made and I bought it with the intention of making cornbread. I also thought it would be a good dish for making baked mac & cheese, poofy apple pancakes, polenta, mushroom risotto, basically anything rustic that would look delicious and homey served in a cast iron skillet.
All right, now onto the recipe. Start by melting the butter. I like to watch the pan and let the butter melt about halfway and then remove it from the heat. The residual heat will melt the rest of the butter and this way, it's not too sizzling hot to add to the batter.
Next, in a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, and salt) and mix together. Add in the corn - I used frozen - and toss to coat. If you don't like corn pieces, omit them, please. But me? I love biting into cornbread and getting little bits of corn. It's delicious and it just makes sense to me.
In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk and egg.
Pour the buttermilk and egg mixture over the dry ingredients and add a bit of vanilla extract. Slowly mix the ingredients together just to get it started - maybe 3 of 4 turns around the bowl - and then pour in the butter.
Give the batter just a few more stirs, just until everything comes together. Lumps are okay. The batter will feel pretty dense and thick but don't worry! The acidic buttermilk will react with the basic baking soda and make a fluffy bread.
If you choose to cook your cornbread in a cast iron pan, like me, then get it nice and hot on the stove. When the pan is hot, turn off the heat and add a teaspoon of butter to the pan and let it melt and sizzle and turn nice and brown. If your pan is hot enough, the butter should turn brown rather quickly. Make sure your pan isn't too hot though, or else you'll burn your butter.
Once the butter is melted and brown, pour the batter into the skillet. This recipe just happens to just perfectly fit into my pan. You may or may not have the same results.
Put the cornbread in the oven at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. By the way, I put my pan on top of a sheet pan just because it was a little annoying and difficult to handle the dish with giant oven mitts. It was just easier to move it around on a sheet pan.

If you're using a regular loaf pan or cake pan or muffin tin, skip the cast iron warming up steps and just grease up your pan with a little butter, pour in the batter, and bake the same way, at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes.
Ah, this is what it looked like when it was done and fresh out of the oven. The sides were lovely and golden brown and I couldn't wait to dig in.
Let the cornbread cool for 20 minutes or until just cool enough to handle. If you try and cut it up too early, it'll just crumble apart.
I like to spread a little bit of butter on my cornbread while it's still warm so that the butter melts. It's the best. This cornbread is rather hearty but somehow still light and it totally hits the spot. The best thing about skillet cornbread is the crust. It's nice and crisp and buttery and makes my heart happy.
Enjoy this cornbread alongside your Thanksgiving meal, with some homemade soup, next to a bowl of hearty chili, simply drizzled with honey, or just by itself. How do you like the cornbread placed next to the corn placemats? I like it a lot.
Here's the recipe page:


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