Cast-iron Cornbread

1 ½ c cornmeal

1 c flour

1 ½ T baking powder

1 ½ t salt

½ t baking soda

3 eggs

1 3/4 c soy milk

3/4 c butter, plus one tablespoon

½ c maple syrup

½ c half and half

Preheat oven to 375°F with your “clean” cast iron pan on the middle rack. I use quotation marks because you aren’t really supposed to clean cast iron with soap and water, so however you cleaned it from your last use, wipe out any excess lard or oil before you start these directions. I had actually just cleaned mine and had it on the gas burner to dry. As soon as the water evaporated, I shut off the flame. I wanted to make sure I cut the heat before anything left in the pan started to burn. That will give a bad flavor to whatever you cook next in the cast iron.

I added all of the dry ingredients to a large bowl and moved on the the wet ingredients.

I softened the butter in the microwave on High 15 seconds at a time. That only took me two tries. Normally, using the microwave it NOT recommended. Butter heats quickly and can explode in the microwave. You should prepare ahead leaving the butter out to soften at room temperature, but this does not work for me not only under time constraints but with the cold weather here. You’ll see what I mean in this next step.

I transferred the melted butter into the bowl of my stand mixer and let it whisk. Instead of worrying about curdling the eggs when I added them, I added the milk next. You could also measure out the milk and let it come to room temperature before adding it to the butter, but not me; I’m trying to get dinner done before everyone gets home. Add the rest of the wet ingredients to the butter and milk including the eggs. Because the milk was colder than the butter, the butter clumped up. This wasn’t a big deal for me because I knew it would melt in the oven. Even in clumps, the butter melted quickly and evenly enough to distribute throughout the mix before it was done. I didn’t pay to much attention to it. If there was a larger clump of butter, it made a nice buttery pocket in the piece of cornbread.

The cast iron pan retained just enough heat to begin browning the butter, so I used the other half of the stick of butter that was not originally part of the recipe that I had put in my butter dish and rubbed it around the pan to cover the bottom and about a half inch up the side. The butter melted immediately and started to brown. About a tablespoon of butter. I put the rest of that half stick of butter back in the butter dish. No waste.

Here’s one unavoidable dish change. As in, I use the same dishes during prep to minimize dirty dishes. For example, I cracked the eggs into the measuring cup after I poured the milk out of it into the mixing bowl, not washing it in between. I figure if I can get the residual milk out the measuring cup that way, all the better. That may not sit well with some people, but I’m conscious of the time line. This is all done within two hours, most of the time less.

I added half of the dry ingredients to the wet, and stirred them in. They didn’t generate a flurry of flour in the air, so I scraped down the sides and added the rest of the dry ingredients to the wet just enough so all of the dry ingredients were incorporated. I didn’t want to overwork the batter. Anyway, who has time for that…just kidding! I like my cornbread nice and fluffy.

So I dumped the mix into the pan and baked it for 40 minutes or until edges look medium toasted. They say “golden brown”, but I let it go a little longer. Really, when the house smells amazing, it’s done! And the time is a guide since my pan may be a little larger than the average cast iron pan and so spreads the mix out thinner cooking it quicker.

The center even looks a tiny bit wet, but I knew it would finish cooking even after I removed it from the oven. I needed the cornbread to start cooling so the crust wouldn’t burn, but the inside would take a little longer to cool and actually finish cooking the center. Like a huddle of penguins keeps warm…is that a bad visual?

It cooled for 10 minutes before I cut out a piece to make sure it was done all the way through. What do you think?



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