Why It Works
- Preheating the pan and coating it with bacon grease creates a dark crust with a light smoky, nutty flavor.
- Using sour cream along with buttermilk increases the mild tanginess and overall flavor of the bread.
- Adding a little oil to the batter results in a more cake-like moistness.
After working through loaf after loaf of sweet Northern-style cornbread trying to find the best recipe, I thought I'd be all cornbread-ed out. Instead, I found myself just wanting more of that super-moist, cakey bread, especially since I'd thought of so many ways to doctor it up.
It probably would have been smart to wait until actual Thanksgiving, when I'd have a hungry audience, to try out my variations. But I actually wound up sitting in my kitchen one cold Saturday night, churning out one cornbread after another, combining sweet, savory, and spicy flavors until I had five iterations that really clicked, each taking an already excellent cornbread recipe to grand new heights. In addition to this savory cheese and bacon cornbread, try maple walnut, orange cranberry, roasted pepper, and jalapeño.
Bringing a little breakfast spirit to my cornbread, I went with a cheddar, bacon, and scallion mixture in this loaf. I started by frying up six slices of diced bacon, leaving a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan after removing the meat. The skillet then went into my preheated oven while I made the rest of the bread.
I kept the base recipe mostly the same here, except I cut back the salt to account for the saltiness of the bacon. I added six ounces of coarsely grated sharp cheddar and half a cup of finely sliced scallions along with the bacon.
When the batter was ready to go, the bacon fat was nice and hot, sizzling as I poured in the batter. The crust began to set immediately, and the rest of the bread was cooked during its 20-minute stint in the oven.
The resulting cornbread is incredible. The bacon gives it a smoky, meaty, and salty flavor; the cheddar adds some creaminess and a sharp bite; and the scallions lend their mellow, oniony freshness. It's sweet and savory, and I love it—I can imagine eating this at any meal, anytime. My wife, on the other hand, thinks it suffers from a bit of an identity crisis, so if you're not as into the sweet-and-savory mashup as I am, you can cut the sugar by half (or more) to bring this one further into the savory realm.
6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter, cooled slightly
6 ounces cheddar cheese shredded
1/2 cup finely sliced scallions
Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Cook bacon in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until fat renders and bacon crisps, about 10 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour bacon fat out into a small bowl. Return 2 tablespoons to pan and place pan in oven. Reserve an additional 2 tablespoons fat and discard the rest or save for another use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together sour cream, buttermilk, eggs, 3 tablespoons melted butter, and 2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat. Pour wet ingredients into bowl with dry ingredients and whisk until completely combined. Stir in bacon, cheese, and scallions.
Using pot holders, carefully remove hot pan from oven. Pour in cornbread batter and place in oven. Bake until skewer inserted into middle of cornbread comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let bread cool in pan for 5 minutes, then carefully turn out to wire rack and let cool an additional 10 minutes. Serve immediately. Reheat any leftover cornbread before serving again.
This recipe results in a sweet and savory cornbread. For less sweetness, the sugar can be cut by half.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 8 to 10|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 17g||21%|
|Saturated Fat 8g||42%|
|Total Carbohydrate 32g||12%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||5%|
|Total Sugars 12g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||6%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|