As a child, every year a few days before Thanksgiving we had a Simple Meal. The meal was meant to replicate the humble nature of the first Thanksgiving, and—in a world where there is so much hunger—remind us of all we have to be grateful for. It consisted of bowls of homemade chicken soup with rice, carrots, and celery; cups of fresh New England apple cider; and my favorite: crumbly squares of warm cornbread with fat pats of butter melting on their tops.
To this day, cornbread is one of the things I look forward to most at Thanksgiving.
Tucked away in a basket at the end of the table, cornbread may lack the show-stopping nature of the turkey and the desserts, but to me, it’s the one food that truly embodies the spirit of the holiday. Homey, straightforward, and honest, cornbread is comfort food at its best. Each November I bake up a batch, and as the toasty aroma fills my kitchen, I reflect on all those Simple Meals I ate as a child.
This year, inspired by one of my favorite cookbooks, The Cornbread Book: A Love Story with Recipes, by Jeremy Jackson, I decided to get a little creative. Without betraying its modest roots, I wanted my cornbread to have a bit of crunch, and a bolder, more pronounced sweetness. What I came up with is a variation of Jeremy’s recipe for Sweet Cornbread.
Enjoy, and please share your own cornbread recipes, add-ins, and renditions!
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 5 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon maple flavoring (optional)
- 1 cup milk
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray an 8x8 or 9x9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Sift the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg with the maple syrup and maple flavoring (if using).
Add the milk, the oil, and the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until everything is combined (mixture will be slightly lumpy). Fold in the walnuts.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes, until the cornbread is browned slightly at the edges and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.