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Black Skillet Cornbread

Black skillet cornbread—sugar never entered its mind.
difficulty:
yield:

6 to 8 portions

time:

About 35 minutes, start to finish

Recently we replaced the vegetable oil that we’d been using to grease the hot skillet with butter. The blazing heat browns the butter immediately and flavors the cornbread’s crisping bottom crust in a most beguiling way. Do use European-style butter, though. Regular supermarket butter will smoke and burn!

introduction

Cornbread is a religion in the South. Quintessentially Southern, black skillet cornbread has a coarse, open crumb and a deep, crackling finish. Its sweetness comes from the natural sweetness of the cornmeal itself—or from a drizzle of sorghum or honey after baking—not from sugar added to its batter. Many cooks consider the addition of wheat flour in any proportion objectionable. That being said, you may, if you wish, replace ½ cup of cornmeal with ½ cup of unbleached all-purpose flour in the recipe. The cornbread will be slightly less porous.

equipment mise en place

For this recipe, you will need a digital kitchen scale, a well-seasoned 8- to 9-inch cast-iron skillet, a large mixing bowl, a whisk, a medium saucepan, and a rubber spatula.

  1.  

    Adjust the oven racks to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat an empty well-seasoned 8- to 9-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 10 minutes.

  2.  

    While the skillet heats, turn the cornmeal, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

  3.  

    Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the milk and warm it slightly. Remove the pan from the heat. Ladle some of the milk mixture into the beaten egg and whisk to combine. Pour the egg into the saucepan. Whisk to combine.

  4.  

    Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk lightly until smooth. The batter will be fairly thin. Add the cold butter to the hot skillet and tilt to distribute. Scrape the batter into the skillet with a rubber spatula—it should sizzle. Immediately place the skillet on the lower oven rack and bake for 15 minutes. Then, transfer the skillet to the upper rack and continue baking until the cornbread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Invert the cornbread onto a cutting board so that the crackling side is facing up or leave the bread in the skillet for serving. Cut into wedges and serve with butter and honey, or with apple butter or Sorghum Butter.