this yummy cornbread has been my favorite way of using up all the buttermilk I produce when making butter (see here for my previous post re: homemade butter). speaking of buttermilk: I do think there's a difference between the cultured skim-milk "buttermilk" that's available at the store vs. the real thing, which is the liquid I drain after I churn cultured cream into butter. I like the flavor of real buttermilk, and its consistency is different -- it's thinner than store-bought; just a little bit thicker than fresh milk. the lactic acid content is similar to the store-bought stuff, because I always culture cream before making butter: culturing cream introduces a compound called diacetyl, which is very buttery in flavor. theoretically, real buttermilk may make baked goods more tender, the theory being that certain emulsifiers being released when fat globules in cream are disturbed by churning. all that said: store-bought buttermilk, regular yogurt thinned w/milk to the consistency of buttermilk, or fresh milk with 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice added -- all work beautifully in this recipe; you'll be happy with the texture, rise and flavor of this perfectly balanced cornbread. note: there's sugar in this recipe because I like my cornbread a bit sweet, but if you don't like it, leave it out and reduce the salt by about half.
preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar (any kind of granulated sugar will do)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (or a little less, depending on taste)
1 cup buttermilk
1-1/2 cups cornmeal (Bob's Red Mill Medium Grind Cornmeal is my favorite)
1 cup all purpose flour
butter a cast iron skillet or a 9-inch square baking pan, and put in oven while preheating. combine the butter, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. crack in the eggs and pour in the buttermilk, then whisk thoroughly to combine. add the cornmeal and flour to the mixture, and whisk just until combined. remove pan from oven and pour in the batter (using a spatula to get every bit into the pan). tap gently to level it, then bake for 25 - 30 minutes, until center is set, and a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
possible additions/alterations: I love to add freshly-ground black pepper and a few shots of Tabasco. also, I've substituted olive oil for up to 75% of the melted butter with no problems (it just tastes less buttery, but the buttermilk provides plenty of that flavor). other additions that will always be good include: chopped jalapenos (fresh or pickled), sauteed green onion, fresh or frozen corn, grated cheddar, etc. -- just not too much of anything. the *best* batch I ever made utilized the last of this summer's maque choux -- so good. but even plain, it's still probably the best cornbread I've ever made.