No, that’s not a typo. I did spend last weekend making four kinds of cornbread, the first one just wasn’t good enough to be photographed. The recipe requirements for this trial were that what I made needed to be cornbread, include buttermilk, and preferably, not be sweet. Let’s just say I changed my tune as the baking went on. And on and on and on.
The impulse struck on Friday when I could no longer resist the siren song of Matthew Amster-Burton’s recipe from Spilled Milk. I wasn’t in the mood for any sticky, gluey, muffin-like corn business and it was an exciting prospect to, for the first time, try a true, totally-savory, Southern-style cornbread with absolutely zero sugar or flour. The recipe called for an 8 in. skillet and silly me, I thought the fact that mine was about 10 in. wouldn’t matter. Yeah, no. Instead of thick and substantial, the finished product was thin, about a centimeter tall—more of a corn cracker than bread—and extremely bitter. Straight into the trash it went, sans photo. One plus for the recipe: you preheat the skillet (with oil in it) in the preheating oven, and when you pour the batter into the skillet it sizzles and starts cooking IMMEDIATELY. Not shocking. Nonetheless, my inner second grader found it exciting to behold.
Up next, the second trial and the palest of the bunch: Martha Stewart’s buttermilk cornbread. While better than contender one, due to the addition of 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 cup of flour, this bread was still pretty dry and not something I’d repeat after discovering breads three and four.
For the third recipe I trusted my first instincts, ignored up until that point, and went with the classic, moist and just-sweet-enough, grandma’s buttermilk cornbread from allrecipes.com which has an impressive 3,305 reviews, most of which are five-star. It was quite good, looked and tasted like the iconic cornbread with its golden color, and was the closest to the cornbread of my dreams I’ve found yet. We polished off about half the recipe. They’re especially delightful with butter.
Joy the Baker’s brown butter rosemary orange cornbread was the gold medalist of the Cornbread Taste Test of 2013. Fourth time was a charm (and my second time making this recipe) and only the three pieces in this photo avoided consumption (as in being eaten, not getting TB) and that was only because I hid them for photo purposes. The difference, and probably unfair advantage of this recipe? The additions of 1/3 cup of sugar, orange juice, orange zest, fresh rosemary, and browned butter which make this baby a star. The other secret: using instant polenta instead of cornmeal! The polenta I used was much finer and easier to chew than the cornmeal in the other three recipes.
Well, I’m over cornbread now for at least the next year, so until next week I’m going to roll to bed. Enjoy your heat wave/ice storm/snow/tornado, and have a great weekend!