Cornbread: Sweet or Savory?


Photo by Regina Charboneau

To try cornbread pudding stuffed with greens, click here for the recipe.
To try crawfish andouille cornbread dressing, click here for the recipe.

This is the first in a series of five to help you prepare ahead for your holiday meal--Southern style.

This is the week that I start baking and freezing corn bread for my Thanksgiving dressing. I know this may seem premature, but what you don't know is I have about 140 for Thanksgiving. When you are one of nine children and your mother was one of nine it does not take long for the numbers of in-laws, nieces, nephews, and cousins to multiply into the triple digits.

People ask me all the time how I can cook for that many? My answer is always: math. The reality is, it is organization; it is preparing as much as I can ahead and freezing what I can without affecting the integrity of the dish. My motto about cooking and entertaining is, "never sweat". If you are working that hard, it is not fun. Lucky for me there are several Southern holiday dishes that freeze well.

Cornbread in the South is about as controversial as gumbo. Everyone has a recipe and everyone has an opinion.

I am going to share my thoughts on cornbread and my recipes for my skillet cornbread, crawfish and andouille cornbread dressing, and my cornbread pudding stuffed with mustard greens. If you are having a smaller crowd, these individual servings of cornbread pudding stuffed with greens make an impressive presentation. Next week I will cover cooking with ease and freeze! I make and slice my peppered brisket and freeze along with my dressings a few weeks ahead. Week three I will share some recipes for traditional side dishes such as yams and creamed spinach, with a twist. Week four I will get into some different cranberry sauces, chutneys, and two easy horseradish sauces to accompany the brisket. Week five, the week before Thanksgiving, I will give you my recipe for roast turkey with anchovies. It is a standard here at Twin Oaks, and you will be surprised how good it is. Let's first start with cornbread, and remember, it is not too early to get that cornbread cooked for your dressing.

Cornbread in the South is about as controversial as gumbo. Everyone has a recipe and everyone has an opinion. I love cornbread, so I like both savory and sweet. I also like honey butter on my savory corn bread and jalapeno corn bread, andouille and crawfish cornbread, broccoli and cheese cornbread, cracklin' cornbread, sun dried tomato and bacon cornbread, and I especially like my recipe for cornbread pudding stuffed with mustard greens. When it comes to making cornbread dressing, there is no question you have to use savory cornbread. The one thing I do that is a little different and adds a touch of sweetness and helps the texture is add creamed corn to my cornbread batter. I like the texture and taste of sweet corn in the cornbread and dressing. I add heavy cream and eggs to create a custard texture that I like in a dressing.

A few tips about corn bread:

1) Cornmeal does not last forever. I throw out my flour and cornmeal about every three months. I also keep it in a zip lock bag. Cornmeal should have a good smell to it, slightly sweet not musty or old.

2) Baked cornbread is best eaten within 15 minutes from the time you take it out of the oven. Never throw out uneaten corn bread--crumble it and put it in a Ziplock in your freezer for a stuffing or corn pudding.

3) Cornbread is best made with a wooden spoon. I never use a mixer.

4) For a good crust on cornbread, cook in a black cast iron skillet. If you want your cornbread more "cake-like", cook in a cake pan.

Twin Oaks Cornbread with Honey Butter

• 1 cup white cornmeal
    • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
    • 1 tbls. baking powder
    • 1/2 teas. salt
    • 6 eggs
    • 1 14oz. can creamed corn
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 1/4 lb. butter (2 tbls. to oil the skillet, the rest goes in the batter)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Best baked in a cast iron skillet.

If you like sweet cornbread, you may add 1/4 cup of sugar. I prefer savory cornbread served with honey butter.

Mix white cornmeal, yellow cornmeal, baking powder, and salt (if you are adding sugar add it to dry mix).

In separate bowl with wooden spoon, mix creamed corn, buttermilk, eggs, and 6 tbls. of melted butter together until smooth.

Stir in cornmeal dry mixture.

After melting 2 tbls. of butter in cast iron skillet, skillet should be hot. Pour in batter and bake for 18-20 minutes. The center should be firm.

Honey Butter

1/4 lb. of butter whipped with 2 tbls. of honey. Always whip your butter first, then add the honey for a smooth butter.