Classic Cornbread

Anyone familiar with cornbread seems to have a preferred version, usually derived from the region they’re from or the type they grew up eating. Many people like their cornbread sweet, some with flour, and traditionalists prefer their cornbread without sugar or flour. We make a few different versions of cornbread at Zapata, and I’m always very deliberate when describing which type of cornbread I’m serving so as not to offend anyone. This version seems to be a fair compromise for everyone. You can taste the corn more than the flour, it has a very subtle sweetness, a slight tang, is moist in the center, and when made properly has an outer crust that is slightly caramelized and crisp. However, I might just be partial to this version because it most closely resembles the cornbread I grew up eating. 

Makes one 10-12 inch round

2 cups (320 g) coarse cornmeal or polenta
½ cup (65 g) flour (optional, see note)
2 Tbsp (30 g) sugar
½ tsp (3 g) baking powder
½ tsp (4 g) baking soda
1 ½ tsp (12 g) kosher salt
1 ½ cup (345 g) full fat buttermilk (or more)
½ cup (120 g) full fat plain greek yogurt
1 large egg, beaten 
1 stick/4 oz (112 g) butter (divided)

Preheat oven to 450℉. Place a 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet in the oven to preheat for 20 minutes before baking. 

Combine the cornmeal, flour (if using), sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl, whisk to thoroughly combine. 

Combine the buttermilk, greek yogurt and egg in a small bowl. 

Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, being careful not to overwork the batter. The batter should look like a very wet pancake batter and it should be slightly creamy. If the batter appears dry add more buttermilk until you get the proper texture. 

Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and place on the stove over high heat. Add half of the butter to the skillet and slowly swirl. The butter will melt quickly, swirling the pan will prevent it from burning. Very carefully pour the melted butter into the batter and gently fold to combine, again being careful not to overwork the batter. 

Return the skillet to the stove over high heat. Place the remaining butter into the skillet, swirl and slightly tilt the skillet, making sure to fully cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour the batter into the skillet, spreading it evenly. You should see butter come up and bubble around the edges of the pan and hear a very light sizzle. Cook the batter over high heat for 1 minute. Transfer the skillet back to the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Serve warm from skillet or allow bread to cool for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a counter, cutting board or other flat surface. 

Serve bread with room temperature butter, honey and a small pinch of salt. 

NOTES
The cornbread can be made gluten free by omitting the flour, some people prefer their cornbread this way as it is more traditional and the corn flavor is more pronounced. Gluten free flour can be substituted for the flour, most people won’t be able to tell the difference. If you do not have a cast iron skillet you can bake the bread in a well buttered cake pan, however, you won’t get the crisp carmaelized crust that forms in the cast iron. Full fat buttermilk can be difficult to find, if you have low fat butter milk you can add more yogurt or heavy cream. I like the slight tang the greek yogurt adds to the bread, however, you can omit it from the recipe if you do not have any on hand, just be sure to compensate and keep the batter wet by adding more buttermilk or cream. 

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