The cold, windy weekend weather drove me into the kitchen to bake something comforting. In less than 15 minutes I had mixed together a cornbread batter, and in 10 more minutes enticing aromas accompanied the welcome heat radiating from the oven. It was only minutes longer and a golden, crusty loaf was ready to serve with the maple-molasses butter I had whipped together.
The bread is sweetened with maple syrup and flavored with sage leaves. Whole grain cornmeal offers crunch, and buttermilk imparts tenderness. This recipe makes a reliable starting point, but I have fun changing it around. For a healthier version, I replace the butter with light olive oil or vegetable oil, and use whole wheat flour rather than all purpose. Sometimes I season it with rosemary instead of sage, or use honey as an alternative to maple syrup. I have added generous quantities of freshly ground black pepper, and folded in corn kernels.
Baking the bread in a hot, heavy skillet is the key to the richly colored crusty bottom (or top, if you decide to turn the loaf out onto a platter). I like to use a 10¼ -inch Le Creuset enameled cast iron skillet. The bread cooks perfectly, and the pan is so attractive, I can bring it to the table with the cornbread in it. The pan retains heat, so it keeps the loaf warm, but I am careful to protect the table with a trivet.
I served the bread with a big bowl of soup the first day. We enjoyed it alongside fried eggs the next morning, and then spread with peanut butter for lunch on another day. It also makes a pleasant treat with a hot cup of tea.
Maple and Sage Cornbread
- 1 cup whole grain, medium grind cornmeal (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1 cup all purpose flour or whole wheat flour or gluten-free flour blend such as King Arthur Measure for Measure flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1 cup buttermilk, or 1 tablespoon white vinegar plus enough milk or soy milk to measure 1 cup total
- ½ cup maple syrup, preferably medium or grade B
- 1 egg
- ½ cup 1 stick unsalted butter, or 6 tablespoons light olive oil, or vegetable oil
- 1½ tablespoons minced fresh sage or rosemary
- Maple-Molasses Butter, see recipe below
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Heat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to blend. Combine the buttermilk, syrup, and egg in a 2 cup measuring cup or small bowl and whisk to blend.
- Using a potholder, remove the skillet from the oven. Add the butter and sage to the skillet and swirl until the butter melts and the sage sizzles. Pour the butter and sage into the egg mixture, leaving just enough butter in the pan to coat the pan. Whisk the butter into the egg mixture, and then add to the dry ingredients. Stir just until combined. Pour the batter into the skillet. Using a potholder, return the skillet to the oven. Bake the bread until brown around the edges and feels springy when pressed in the center, about 20 minutes. Let cool in the skillet at least 10 minutes. Turn out onto a platter, if desired. Serve the bread warm or at room temperature with the Maple-Molasses Butter.
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup (preferably medium or grade B)
- 1 teaspoon dark molasses (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Freshly ground pepper
- Mix the butter in a small bowl until smooth and light. Gradually mix in the maple syrup, and then all the remaining ingredients. Serve at room temperature. (The butter will keep for several days. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)