Unlike its sweet, cakey Northern counterpart, Southern corn bread is thin, crusty, and decidedly savory. Though some styles of Southern corn bread are dry and crumbly, I favor this dense, moist, tender version. Cornmeal mush of just the right texture is essential to this bread. Though I prefer to make cornbread in a preheated cast-iron skillet, a 9-inch round cake pan or 9-inch square baking pan, greased lightly with butter and not preheated, will also produce acceptable results if you double the recipe and bake the bread for 25 minutes.
- 4 tsp bacon drippings or 1 tbsp melted butter and 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup yellow corn meal, preferably stone ground
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup rapidly boiling water
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 large egg, beaten lightly
Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees F. Set 8-inch cast iron skillet with bacon fat (or vegetable oil) in heating oven. Measure 1/3 cup cornmeal into medium bowl. Mix remaining cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in small bowl; set aside. Pour boiling water all at once into the 1/3 cup cornmeal; stir to make a stiff mush. Whisk in buttermilk gradually, breaking up lumps until smooth, then whisk in egg. When oven is preheated and skillet very hot, stir dry ingredients into mush mixture until just moistened. Carefully remove skillet from oven. Pour hot bacon fat (or melted butter) into batter and stir to incorporate, then quickly pour batter into heated skillet. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and instantly turn corn bread onto wire rack; cool for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.