It’s not that I didn’t know, on some intellectual level, that cornbread can be made from scratch. It just never occurred to me to originate it from anything other than a box. After all, it was only a few years ago that it even occurred to me to start buying the big, premium box of cornbread mix, and not the tiny 99 cents box.
My motivation for learning to make cornbread from scratch was two-fold. I never felt comfortable with the high calories in cornbread that’s made from a mix, but more importantly, one day I needed to make some cornbread, and I didn’t have the mix in the house.
Yes, cornbread is a “need.” If you’re eating chili, you need cornbread. I don’t know why, but eating garlic bread alongside chili, for instance, doesn’t work any better than eating cornbread with spaghetti would work. Slicing up a loaf of sourdough with chili wouldn’t make any more sense than having a cornbread muffin alongside a bowl of clam chowder. Not only is there probably some sort of logical historical reason that cornbread goes with chili, more importantly, there’s comfort in it. We feel comfortable when certain foods are presented together: tomato soup and grilled cheese, steak and potatoes, cornbread and chili.
As with nearly all recipes I make from scratch, one of my prerequisites is that the recipe calls for ingredients I tend to have on hand. Cornmeal comes close to being a deal breaker. There are two reasons that have it in my pantry, however. First of all, I use it all the time with pizza dough to keep homemade pizza from sticking to the stone or pan I’m cooking it on. The pizza comes off easily, and there is a nice texture to the bottom of the crust when the pizza comes out of the oven. The second reason I have it around? Someone recently told me it works as a non-toxic ant poison. I find that it works better on a pizza crust than as ant poison. When I tried to use it to kill ants, it didn’t seem to do much more than fatten up the ants that ate it. Not only was I providing a warm, comfortable home for ants to live in, I was also feeding them a nice meal. Under the cornmeal remedy, the ants were much closer to becoming pets than becoming exterminated.
Cornmeal does work wonderfully as a base ingredient for homemade corn muffins, though. I still don’t think of it as health food. There is a lot of butter in the recipe, after all, but I worked to add plain yogurt in the recipe as a protein boost and to keep the muffins soft. With only ¼ cup sugar in the recipe, it is still plenty sweet. It’s cornbread, after all, not corncake.
makes one dozen muffins
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt
¾ cup milk
¼ cup butter, softened
Mix together dry ingredients, then add in wet ingredients. Stir to create a smooth batter. Pour into muffin tin that has been sprayed with non-stick olive oil spray. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out dry.