My husband recently entered a bake-off with the cast and crew of Motown: The Musical at the Oriental Theater in Chicago. Bless him, he wanted to enter my corn bread. I said, Hey, it’s just the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook recipe. You know. The book with the red and white checks on the cover? Then he made a trial batch.
Turns out, it’s kind-of not their recipe after all. The differences are mostly fiddly bits in the process, plus, more butter.
BETTER CORN BREAD
Preheat oven to 450f.
Put a cast iron pan at least 9” diameter in the oven to preheat.
Melt 4 Tablespoons (half a stick) of butter in the pan. While this melts:
Mix dry ingredients together:
1 cup white flour
1 cup yellow corn meal
1/3 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
In a separate bowl, pour 1 cup (8 oz) cream, half’n’half, or milk. Richer is better. Cream should be room-temperature.
Pour melted butter into the cream. This cools it.
Put iron pan back in oven with 2 Tablespoons more butter in it. (Don’t argue with me about the butter.) Let it burn nice and brown while you do the next steps.
In a separate bowl, beat 2 room-temperature eggs until light yellow and frothy. Add them to the milk and melted butter and mix thoroughly.
Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix with 6-10 slow strokes, seeking only to moisten the dry ingredients. There will be bits of dry stuff here and there; that’s fine. The idea is to wet all the dry ingredients to activate the baking powder, but not beat it so much that the bubbles that have been formed by that chemical reaction all pop, or the gluten starts to form in the wet flour.
Scrape the batter into the preheated, burnt-buttery cast iron pan. The batter should sizzle on contact with the pan. (This is what creates that awesome lacy brown crust, like a good pancake.) Bake at 450f for 10 to 15 minutes. (Shorter if in a convection oven, longer if in a conventional oven.) Try not to peek. If it starts smelling done, touch the top center of the cornbread. If it is dry and browning, it’s done.
Cool in the pan 10 minutes before cutting. Serve with very soft butter and/or honey
Lagniappe: a quickie review of Motown: The Musical. This show is adorable, and what’s more, it has real music! I saw the invited dress rehearsal, which means I was among the very first members of the public to see the show. The house was warm, that is, everyone in the audience had heard the music when it first hit the radio waves fifty-five years ago. We were singing, stomping, and clapping along. I really cannot overstate the importance of having real music in a musical. Tunes you can sing along to. Tunes you remember when you leave the building. Not just “the song that goes like this,” as they call it in Spamalot. You will absolutely enjoy this one.
PS, my hubby’s cornbread was perfect, but it didn’t win the bake-off. It was still very, very tasty, and every bit of it got eaten.