Cornbread is the most versatile bread on the planet! A unit of cornbread is called a “Pone”, not a loaf. It’s easy to make and you can add ingredients you like to the batter. There is almost no way to mess it up! It is a great bread with any dish and travels well too. But let’s start with the basic bread.
Lets start by preparing the pan. There are a couple of different ways that I prepare my skillet and which one I choose depends on how busy I am that day.
1. On an average day when things aren’t quite as hectic, I preheat my pan. Place it in a 400 degree F oven for 10 to 15 minutes while I prepare the cornbread mixture. Timing is everything with this method. You want the skillet hot when you are finished mixing the ingredients. Bring the skillet out of the oven and take a heaping tablespoon of shortening and move it around the sides of the skillet. It will melt and run down to the bottom of the pan. This gets the sides and the bottom well oiled for baking. Once the pan has been greased, then add about a teaspoon of dry cornmeal…that’s right, just cornmeal. This gives the outside of your bread a little crunch. Next you immediately dump in your cornbread mixture before the pan cools and return it to the oven.
2. On a hectic day I grab some shortening with a paper towel or just with my hand and give the unheated skillet a good smear. With this method you have to be generous with the grease like this.
Note: If you do not have a seasoned cast iron skillet, you can use a lightly greased 10 x 13 baking pan. (ceramic or metal)
3 1/2 cups white self-rising cornmeal mix
3 cups buttermilk
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well by hand. Be sure to stir all the way to the bottom of the bowl. Let the mixture set for a couple of minutes and stir again, trust me on this, its worth it. This way you won’t have a patch of dry corn meal when you pour the mixture out of the bowl.
Pour batter into skillet and bake at 400 degree oven for 30 min or until very lightly browned on top. To test bread you can use the toothpick method in the center of cornbread, or quickly but firmly pat the middle with your hand. If it makes a dent in the bread, you need to bake longer, if the bread springs back with no mark, it’s done! Turn bread out onto a plate and serve hot.
*Most southern cooks primarily use white cornmeal. I understand some places only carry yellow corn meal. If yellow corn meal is all you can find locally, feel free to use it. I like to use yellow corn meal myself from time to time just to make my family think that they are getting something different. Just between you and me, it’s all the same! The only difference is the color of the corn that was used to make it.