Cornbread is one of my earliest taste memories. My grandmother always served it right out of the oven next to the pot of beans, and at Thanksgiving she made stuffing from stale cornbread bits. I remember my older brother eating thick hot wedges in a bowl of milk for a late night snack. My dad breaks it up in pieces to thicken his soup. I like it best cold, for breakfast.
This cornbread has a fantastic taste – the depth and strength of the whole wheat is balanced by the tangy buttermilk, the sweet sugar and the salty butter crust. The stoneground cornmeal gives the bread a grainy, chewy mouthfeel and stands up for itself flavor-wise too. I still can’t get away from the beans-and-cornbread association, so Mike and I ate ours with a 3-bean chili rich with ginger, anchos and acorn squash. It’s the humblest of meals, and it couldn’t make me happier. (Also – it’s a good meal to prime your stomach for a night of drinks with friends ! )
notes: Please use stone-ground cornmeal – it is slightly coarser than steel-ground and has such a richer flavor (and is more nutritious). I buy Bob’s Red Mill medium grind cornmeal and store it in the freezer. For the whole wheat flour, you can substitute all-purpose white flour, but in that case dial the sugar back to 1/2 cup.
1 stick unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
Preheat the oven to 375F. Melt the butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet over a low flame. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients – baking soda, salt, cornmeal and flour – and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and buttermilk. Add the melted butter in a slow stream, whisking continuously so that the eggs do not scramble.
Pour the wet ingredients over the flour mixture, stirring out the clumps until the batter is smooth. Pour into the buttery cast iron skillet and put in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean.