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I'm gonna come right out and tell you right now that I'm a fan of Northern-style cornbread. Yankee cornbread. You know, the lightly sweetened, moist, tender, golden stuff that nearly everybody who knows cornbread thinks of when you say "cornbread?"* If you're one of those Southern holdouts that thinks that cornbread should be thin, sugar-free, and crunchy to a fault, you're welcome to go crunch on your bread in the corner over there for the remainder of this post, because we're all about the sweet stuff here.**
Whether you're serving it with chili or simply with a smear of butter and a drizzle of honey, good cornbread with a moist, tender crumb and and intense corn flavor is one of life's greatest pleasures. So how do you take one of life's greatest pleasures and make it even more, well, pleasurable? Simple: Add some browned butter to it.
* Seriously: do a Google image search and at least 21 of the first 24 photos are of moist Northern-style cornbread.
**I kid. I love that stuff too. But I just can't help trying to get a rise out of some of you cornbread hard-liners!
This cornbread recipe is nothing you haven't seen before if you're a regular on the site. The base is almost identical to the outstanding Sweet and Moist Northern Style Cornbread that Josh developed last year, with a few small exceptions—some tricks I learned while working on my recipe for tamale pie.
I start by making browned butter. While Nila recommends making it in a light colored pot on the stovetop (light pots make it easier to gauge color changes), in this case, since we're going to need to preheat a cast iron skillet in the oven anyway, I just throw my butter (all 7 tablespoons of it) directly into the skillet, then put the whole thing in the oven to melt and brown while I measure out my wet and dry ingredients.
The dry stuff is a basic mix of equal parts yellow corn meal and flour (the wheat flour helps give it that light, moist texture while the corn gives it flavor), baking powder, baking soda, salt, and a touch of sugar—I use about half of what Josh uses, so that the brown butter flavor can stand out a bit more.
The wet ingredients are eggs, buttermilk, sour cream (it gives a more intense tang than plain buttermilk), and that browned butter.
Once it's all whisked together, I pour it directly into the hot cast iron skillet which should still be coated with the remnants of the browned butter. Back into the oven it goes until cooked through and browned, 20 to 25 minutes. It comes out with a supremely crisp crust from the close contact with the cast iron, a nice burnished top, and a moist, rich, and intensely aromatic crumb that has a distinct nuttiness from the browned butter.
This isn't the easiest cornbread you'll ever make, but it ain't really that difficult and I'll be damned if it isn't tasty as heck. This is the kind of cornbread that haunts your dreams. If you're the type to dream of chili, that is.