Thursday, August 29, 2013

Soft Inside, Crispy Outside Southern Cornbread

OH. MY. HEAVENS. It's CORNBREAD! And not just any cornbread. No, no. This has the traditional outside crunch of traditional Southern cornbread, but the inside is less dense, softer, more pillowy if you will. This is soft inside, crispy outside Southern Traditional an Untraditional way. Here's my recipe card (which is all kinds of messy):


First of all, do you see this jar? This is an old jam jar full of bacon grease that has lovingly been stored in the fridge. I know that those of you who have been reading this blog for a while have seen that I store bacon grease in a coffee cup by the stove. If, however, you do not use bacon grease very often (or if you happen to be remodeling your kitchen and want to avoid getting sawdust in the bacon grease), storing the grease in a jar (preferably something glass) in the fridge is the way to go. Do you need bacon grease for cornbread? Does it absolutely have to be bacon grease? On behalf of the South, the answer is YES.
The next thing you need to see is this beautiful cast iron skillet. Can you make cornbread in a cake pan? Yes. Is it as awesome as cornbread made in a cast iron skillet? Nope. Not at all.

This is actually a brand new cast iron skillet. I'm using a brand new one because I just got married and my momma's cast iron skillets are still living at her house. Dang it.

Cast iron pans can be (and should be) seasoned. Remember the post I wrote about Miss Coretta from The Famous Jett Jackson hiding her pans all over the house? (On a related note: I was so sad to hear about Lee Thompson Young's early, untimely death recently. My heart and prayers go out to his family, friends, and coworkers.) She was hiding them from Jett's mom who did not know that you aren't supposed to wash cast iron pans. (I do wash mine...but GENTLY and with very little soap...only when necessary.) I did not season this pan very well. In fact, those of you who know a little bit about cast iron pans know just by looking at this one that I didn't season it very well because the handle still isn't a black color. 

Back to cornbread...
Step One: Put about a tablespoon of bacon grease in a cast iron skillet. Heat it over med-high heat until it begins to smoke. (CAUTION: When grease begins to smoke, it is just a short step away from catching fire. SO WATCH CAREFULLY!)

Ok...I must say... I start heating up the grease before I start mixing my ingredients. I've been making cornbread for a while, and when I make it, the amount of time it takes for me to mix the ingredients is almost the same amount of time it takes for the grease to heat just right. If you choose to mix your ingredients while the grease heats, please, please be careful. Keep a watchful eye on that grease while you mix everything together. 
Step Two: Meanwhile (or before you ever begin heating the grease), mix together White Lily self-rising cornmeal, buttermilk, and mayo. 

I know, I know - mayo is the untraditional ingredient that makes the cornbread soft. You won't find it in Mama's recipe, but it makes soft cornbread. Traditionally, an egg is used instead of mayo. My momma ran out of eggs one time but really wanted cornbread, so she tried mayo (since it is made from eggs). Even though I do not like mayonnaise, I LOVE cornbread made this way. 
When you mix everything together, the batter will look super thick like this. 

Step Three: Add about 1/4 c. water. The batter should be more fluid like this. 

This is just a picture of what the grease looks like when it starts to smoke. I'm just proud I captured the picture. 

Step Four: Carefully pour the grease into the batter... 

(It was at this point that I realized I should have used a glass or metal bowl instead of a plastic one. I always tease my momma because all of her plastic bowls are ruined...probably from hot bacon grease during the cornbread making process.)

...and stir well. 

Step Five: Pour the batter into the hot cast iron skillet. 

Step Six: Bake at 450 degrees for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. 

Now...if your pan is seasoned well, the cornbread will slide right out...and be much prettier than this when you flip it upside down onto a plate. 

Look at it! Look at the crunchy golden outside...the pillowy soft, melt-in-your-mouth inside of the cornbread. What could be better? Put a pat of butter on the inside. Oh....heavenly, Southern, goodness. 

Untraditional Traditional Southern Cornbread
1 T. bacon grease
1 1/4 c. White Lily Self-Rising Cornmeal Mix
1 c. buttermilk
3 T. mayonnaise 
1/4 c. water

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Melt bacon grease in a 8" cast iron skillet over med-high heat until it smokes - while it heats, mix remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Add melted, smoking grease to the batter. Mix well. Pour the batter into the hot cast iron skillet. Bake 25 minutes(ish) or until golden brown. Serve with butter.
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