My co-counselor this summer had never had cornbread. While blasphemous in the eyes of any good American, she was British. And in Britain ground up dried corn mixed with flour, butter, sugar, and milk is not a delicacy. Imagine.
When at camp cornbread appeared on the table, I prepared her. “Cornbread. Cornbread is God’s gift to America. It’s one of maybe two good things about the South. Fried chicken, not politicians, being number two. If I liked fried chicken. Anyway, the cornbread. Oh, just wait.” Then I dove my teeth into the cornbread sitting in front of me. Mediocre at best. Not any fault of the cooks to be sure, but rather the fault of some packaged mix and not enough fatty goodness (i.e. whole milk and cream and butter).
In other words, the exact opposite of this cornbread hailing from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham, a book that has been sitting in my parents’ cookbook collection since around the time I was born. Scary. But a book I didn’t bother to pick up until just last year after reading about it here, here and here. How could I resist such praise for cookbook dedicated to my favorite meal of the day, breakfast? And how can breakfast not be your favorite meal of the day when you get to eat cornbread like this?
Cunningham’s book is beautifully simple, filled with recipes even my sister – who otherwise avoids the kitchen – would attempt. She believes, like I do, in the home cook and the power they, we, have to bring family and friends together over a plate of food. Her cookbook is the exact weapon home cooks need. Its ingredients don’t require ten trips to the grocery store and its techniques don’t mean learning culinary skills via youtube all day. Thank you, Marion. Thank you. And thank you for this cornbread. Magical cornbread that turns a last step drizzle of heavy cream into a custard filling.
This isn’t your traditional, “I’m going to down you with a bowl of chili while I watch the Super Bowl”, cornbread. No no. This cornbread can easily stand alone without the chili and without the football. It begs for a touch of maple syrup and a good book right when you wake up in the morning. Or maybe, if you’re a college student, late at night as you’re heading (or not heading) to bed.
* Apologies for my hyperlinks! I realized some of them haven’t been working. I’ll fix that. Te prometo! (I promise!)
Makes 1 9-inch corn bread
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch round (or 8-inch square) cake pan that is about 2-inches deep. Put the buttered dish or pan in the oven and let it get hot while you mix the batter.
Put the eggs in a mixing bowl and add the melted butter. Beat until the mixture is well blended. Add the sugar, salt, milk, and vinegar and beat well. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, mix just until the batter is smooth and no lumps remain.
Pour the batter into the heated dish, then pour the cream into the center of the batter—don’t stir. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm with maple syrup.