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Please Help My Cornbread

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Here's my recipe for cornbread made in two 6-inch cast-iron skillets. But it comes out WAY too dry. Is it the baking powder? Or what? Please help moisten it. Thanks!!

Corn Bread for Two Small Cast Iron Skillets

1 tablespoon bacon fat, lard, vegetable shortening, or corn or peanut oil
Nearly 1 cup stone-ground cornmeal (double = 1 3/4 cups)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (slightly less if you’re using salted buttermilk)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons corn oil
1 cup buttermilk

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat to 450. Divide the fat between two 5-inch cast iron skillets.

Whisk the cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together thoroughly in a medium bowl.

Whisk the egg in a large glass measure until foamy, then whisk in the buttermilk and the corn oil. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture. Whisk just until blended.

Place the skillets in the oven and heat until the fat smokes. Carefully and quickly divide the batter between the skillets. Bake until the top is browned and the center feels firm when pressed, 14-17 minutes. Run a small offset spatula around between the cornbreads and the skillets. Remove from the skillets and serve immediately, with butter and maple syrup, or just plain.

Yield: 2 ample servings

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  1. That is a very odd amount of leavening. I think that is your problem. Here is my favorite recipe. Btw, I prefer Lamb's stoneground corn meal.

    1 cup cornmeal
    1 cup All-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 egg
    1/4 cup oil (I heat half in the pan, and put half in the batter)
    3 teaspoons baking powder
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1 cup milk (no buttermilk here)

    Preheat oven and pan (with 2 Tablespoons oil) in a 450 degree oven.
    Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients. Combine, pour into preheated cast iron pan. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown.

    -Becca

    1. Not enough oil/fat. My 10" single skillet recipe calls for 1/4 cup of oil/fat...so adjust upward since you're making a 12" recipe AND splitting it into two.

      1. Any cornbread made with 100% cornmeal tends to be dry. In the revised Joy of Cooking they point this out. It should be eaten soon after baking. Once it cools, it soon becomes too dry to eat without a generous amount of butter or something else that will moisten it. It does have the best corn flavor IMO and I often use it for turkey stuffing where it will be moistened with turkey stock.

        I use about 3/4 cup all-purpose flour to 1 cup cornmeal for good flavor and texture, based on Joy's cornbread recipe (no sugar). I usually increase the butter to 2 ounces, otherwise I stick to their recipe.

        1 Reply
        1. re: cheryl_h

          Actually, I just made a batch that came out dry despite that it's a mix of cornmeal (1.5 cups) and flour (.5 cup). And for the amount of meal, the OP's fat/oil and leavening sound about right.

          For the OP, try soaking the cornmeal (or at least half of it) overnight in the buttermilk. It will soften the meal and make the bread less brittle and crumbly (unless you like that texture).

        2. I saw America's Test Kitchen make it just this past weekend and they added pureed fresh corn niblets to the batter to make it moister.

          1. Your ratios are a bit off. I'd leave out the sugar but that is personal. You need aboout 1 Tbs. baking powder for the recipe and more buttermilk and 2 eggs. The batter should not wait for the pans to heat, they should be heating with the oil in them as you make the batter. When somking hot add the oil to the batter, give it a quick stir and pour into the pan(S) and pop in the oven. That batter should sizzle when it hits the pan.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Candy

              Two eggs for 1 cup of cornmeal and no flour? I don't think so.

              No flour will definitely give him a denser crumb, more of a corn cake. Softening the meal is key; soaking in buttermilk or drenching with boiling water are both good options.

              1. re: dippedberry

                he said 1 3/4 C. corn meal. I would never put flour in corn meal or sugar.

                1. re: Candy

                  No, Candy, you mis-read. He says nearly 1 cup (but only 1 3/4 c. for a double recipe).

                  Most cornbread recipes have a combination of flour and cornmeal, including Bill Neal's recipes. If you don't, your choice, but inclusion of flour is as much the norm than the exception.

                  1. re: dippedberry

                    You're used to a Northern version. Candy (and others) are talking about a Southern version which is all, or mostly, corn without wheat flour. Southern cornbread is always made with NO sugar, Northern cornbread always has some. The two are very different.

                    1. re: dippedberry

                      I am aware, cheryl, which is why I said there are just as many recipes with and without. (Though your Northern/Southern distinction is just plain WRONG. Reference again to Bill Neal.)

                      "I would never put flour in corn meal or sugar."-- Candy
                      Her choice, but nothing wrong with putting flour in.

              2. Since you are making a Southern style cornbread, I would stick with all cornmeal. Your recipe is very close to the one I've used for Southern Cornbread from Cook's Illustrated "The Best Recipe". It is crumbler and firmer than the sweeter Northern style but still moist. The main difference is that they mix some of the cornmeal with boiling water, then proceed.
                4 teaspoons bacon drippings
                1 cup stoned ground yellow cornmeal
                2 teaspoon sugar
                1/2 teaspoon salt
                1 teaspoon baking powder
                1/4 teaspoon baking soda
                1/3 cup boiling water
                3/4 cup buttermilk
                1 large egg, lightly beaten
                Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the drippings in a 8-inch cast iron skillet and set on the oven rack.
                Measure 1/3 cup of the cornmeal in a bowl. Whisk the remaining cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in another bowl.
                Pour the boiling water all at once into the 1/3 cup cornmeal and stir to make a stiff mush. Whisk in the buttermilk in a stream. Whisk to remove lumps until the mixture is smooth.
                Whisk in the egg.
                Stir in the dry ingredients until just mixed. Do not overmix.
                Pour into the preheated skillet.
                Bake for about 20 minutes.
                You would probably bake it the same amount as you did for your smaller skillet.

                1. Are you sure you want to be making southern style cornbread? Many people prefer the moister, cakier northern style. You may just have to experiment with different recipes to find the type you like best.

                  My cornbread has 4 tbs. of butter and 2 eggs, as well as equal amounts of flour and cornmeal and 1/4 c. sugar, and it comes out somewhere in between the drier southern style and the sweeter, cakier northern style.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: christy319

                    With 1/4 c of sugar and the proportion of flour to cornmeal, your cornbread is definitely the northern style, no in-betweener.

                    1. re: PBSF

                      I agree, it's a Northern version. I think of mine as an in-between version, with slightly less AP flour than cornmeal and no sugar. I don't like cornbread with sugar at all, but the moistness from some flour makes it more appealing to my taste.

                      1. re: cheryl_h

                        You're probably right, but I do differentiate it from other northern style cornbreads I've had that were super sweet, light and airy. It seems like this is the norm in a lot of places, but mine doesn't taste sweet and is fairly dense.

                  2. Gosh--thanks everyone! Becca, I'll try yours first. I actually liked the cornbread with all cornmeal--it was my boyfriend who declared it too dry, and he's right. And yeah, Cheryl, if you let it cool, you could choke to death trying to swallow it it's so dry!

                    1. this no flower or sugar in southern cornbread is crazy talk. i make cornbread all the time according to my grandmother's recipe and it calls for both.

                      frank in louisiana

                      1. I agree Frank.

                        Becca in Louisiana

                        1. I live in what is called the mason dixon line area.And to please my family I have to make two differnt cornbreads each time...one sweet and one not...but neither are the cake like type.Although if someone offered it to me I would take it, because I just love it period!