It's been a while since I could cozy up to cornbread. There were long stretches of my life where it was the only sustenance available. No, my parents weren't survivalists or aggressive campers. Nope, the cornbread diet carried me through my shifts at the last waitressing job of my career. As any server will confirm, it's the bread and only the bread we have guaranteed access to. Everything else that you yearn to nibble on during a 10 hour shift remains guarded by a wanton kitchen staff. You're at their mercy and they love it. They know they can torment you with the promise of a few fries, and so they do. If you're too weary to engage in the antics then it's all bread basket, all the time. It's the one portion of food service that the waitstaff have full jurisdiction over. This is how cornbread and I became so well acquainted. No doubt, the cornbread at this restaurant was on point. But as a meal replacement for days on on end, let's just say a bitter resentment took root.
Fast forward a couple years to September 2013. I had left the restaurant biz for a big girl desk job. My family is organizing to throw my (then) fiance and I a southern-inspired engagement party. My brother suggests skillet cornbread. At first I wince, but then figure this is as good a time as any to rekindle an old flame. And viola, the book is re-written. Now cornbread brings me back to one of our happiest celebrations in recent memory. The drudgery of those long shifts? Just crumbs by comparison.
This recipe is adapted from Alice Waters cornbread in The Art of Simple Food. Here it's been winter-fied with rosemary and maple, though I'm sure it would be equally welcome at your breakfast/dinner/midnight snack table in warmer months. By design, this cornbread is not on the sweet side. That's where the maple butter comes in. On its own though this cornbread would be a great wing man for stew or chili.
Start by making your butter. In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment beat heavy cream on high until buttermilk (liquid) separates from the milk solids (the butter). You will get heavy cream first, keep going. Total beating time should be between 5-7 minutes.
Once separated, place mixture in a colander lined with a cheesecloth or paper towel to drain. Press down with additional paper towels to release as much of the liquid as possible.
In total about one cup of buttermilk should be released. Save this for pancakes or salad dressing.
Return butter solids to standing mixer this time with a paddle attachment. Add maple syrup and salt and whip on high until well incorporated.
Whip baby, whip. And pretty soon you're in business, the homemade butter business.
Next up, the main event. Pre-heat oven to 425. Put a cast iron skillet (I used 8 inch, 9 or 10 would work as well as would a similarly sized baking dish) with a pat of butter in it. You want your skillet nice and toasty when the batter goes in.
Mix dry ingredients together with a whisk in a mixing bowl.
Sour your milk. Squeeze juice of half a lemon into the milk. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Don't worry, it's supposed to curdle.
Chop your rosemary while you wait on the milk.
Melt your butter.
Fold the milk, egg, and rosemary into the dry ingredients until combined and smooth. Add the melted butter and stir until incorporated. Pour batter into hot skillet.
Bake 25 minutes (if using 8-inch pan) or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If using a wider pan you'll need to reduce baking time. Check for doneness at 20 minutes.
Find a friend to share and dig in.
Rosemary Cornbread with Salted Maple Butter
Salted Maple Butter
1 pint heavy cream
2 Tbs. maple syrup (grade B is best)
1/2 tsp. sea salt (Maldon is superb)
- 3/4 cup cornmeal (yellow or blue)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbs. sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh rosemary
- Soured milk (1 1/4 cup whole milk + juice of one half lemon)
- 1 egg beaten
- 4 Tbs. butter, melted
- 1 pat butter (for skillet)
To make the butter: In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment beat heavy cream until the liquids and solids separate (5-7 minutes on high). Drain mixture in a colander lined with a cheesecloth or paper towel squeezing out excess liquid with more paper towels. Return butter solids to standing mixer this time fitted with a paddle attachment. Add maple and salt and whip on high until incorporated.
To make cornbread: Preheat oven to 425. Place one pat butter on skillet and place in oven to warm. Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in mixing bowl until combined. Add egg, soured milk, and rosemary. Stir to incorporate. Add melted butter, stir until combined. Pour batter into warmed skillet and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Serve with salted maple butter.