Cornbread sounds like a pretty straightforward, uncomplicated dish.
Actually, it’s quite controversial.
Lovers of this centuries old bread debate almost everything about it, from texture to sweetness level.
Interestingly enough, both the cornbread texture and sweetness debates can be traced back to one important change in cornmeal production. This change explains why sugar is a common ingredient in most cornbread recipes today, and why cornmeal is now (usually) yellow and fine.
From Stone to Steel
Until the 1900s, corn kernels were milled into cornmeal on stone mills. Stone mills produced a coarse cornmeal that, unlike most cornmeal today, was white in color. The stone milling process also retained much of the corn kernel’s natural sweetness. As a result, sugar was not a necessary ingredient for cornbread made from this naturally sweet, stone milled cornmeal.
The introduction of steel roller mills in the 20th century changed everything. Not only did steel rollers reduce the size of cornmeal particles, the heat they produced during milling changed the color of cornmeal from white to yellow. The heat from steel rollers also took much of the corn kernel’s natural sweetness out of the resulting cornmeal.
So the reason most cornmeal today is yellow and fine is steel mills. And the reason most cornbread recipes today include sugar is steel mills.
Sweet or savory, fine or coarse cornmeal, I’ve never had a homemade cornbread I didn’t enjoy. But for the best cornbread, make this recipe.
To keep my homemade cornbread accessible, I use the standard, fine cornmeal found at any grocery store. I like sweetness in my cornbread, but not too much. To produce the perfect sweet/savory ratio, my recipe includes brown sugar and freshly grated (or ground) Parmesan.
This is an admittedly unique ingredient. But you just have have to trust me.
The Best Homemade Cornbread
The brown sugar/Parmesan combination, the crunchy exterior, and soft interior of this cornbread cannot be matched.
However you choose to enjoy this homemade cornbread, it will not disappoint.
The Best Homemade Cornbread
- 1 ½ cups cornmeal
- ½ cup flour
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp Parmesan, freshly grated or ground
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 ⅓ cup almond milk
- 2 eggs
- 6 Tbsp butter, melted
- 2 Tbsp butter, melted, for greasing the pan
Preheat the oven and baking dish
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put an ungreased, 9 inch circular dark metal pan or cast iron skillet in the oven while it preheats. We want the pan to be hot before we grease it and fill it with batter.
Mix the dry ingredients
- While the oven and baking dish preheat, make the batter.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, Parmesan, sea salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
Add the wet ingredients
- Now add the almond milk and eggs to the dry ingredients. Whisk until combined, then add in 6 Tbsp of melted butter. Whisk until the butter is completely combined.
Bake the cornbread
- Take your baking dish out of the oven. It will be hot! Carefully pour the remaining 2 Tbsp butter into the dish. Very carefully move the dish around to coat the bottom and sides of the dish with the melted butter.
- Pour the cornbread batter into the baking dish.
- Bake the cornbread for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the top of the cornbread is dark golden brown.