“Her corn-cake, in all its varieties of hoe-cake, dodgers, muffins and other species too numerous to mention, was a sublime mystery to all less practised compounders.” Harriet Beecher Stowe, American writer
There’s cornbread and there’s cornbread. In my childhood, my grandmother whipped up a lot of those little Jiffy boxes, baking them in a Pyrex dish. I loved the results, using the spongy, bright yellow squares to soak up chili and stews.
Only after moving to Appalachia did I discover an entirely different species of this food — cornbread prepared in a pre-heated, sizzling-with-fat iron skillet. I still have fond memories of the Jiffy mix, but I doubt I’ll ever go back. Mountain-style Cornbread comes out of the pan with a crunchy, golden exterior that simply cannot be beaten. Enjoy!
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. While the oven is heating, add 1 Tablespoon of fat to an 8- or 9- inch iron skillet. (Old-school cooks use lard. Butter tastes great. Since I am dairy free, I now use canola oil, which produces a comparable texture but doesn’t taste quite as good.) Put the skillet in the oven and let it heat.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine one cup yellow corn meal and one cup all-purpose flour (wheat or gluten free). Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 Tablespoon white sugar and 1 Tablespoon baking powder and mix well. Add two large eggs, 1 cup milk (dairy or dairy-free) and (if you like the tang of buttermilk) 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar. Mix well.
Using a thick mitt, remove the heated skillet from the oven (close the oven door behind you to retain heat). Spoon and scrape the batter into the skillet, smoothing out the surface. Return the filled skillet to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until top of cornbread is golden brown. Cool five minutes, cut into wedges and serve right out of the skillet.