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The menu for Thanksgiving at my parent’s house has been the same for as long as I can remember. It was always a huge spread, cooked up by my mom: turkey, gravy, anadama bread stuffing, butternut squash puree, mashed potatoes, green beans in some form, fruit salad, and cornbread. I had a special ritual in how I ate Thanksgiving dinner – I start with the butternut squash -> turkey with cranberry sauce and gravy -> stuffing -> green beans -> mashed potatoes -> fruit salad -> with the cornbread as the grand finale.
My ritual for the cornbread was as follows: every Thanksgiving the cornbread had the seat of honor in the middle of the bread plate all alone and off to the side – sliced in half with butter and honey. There it sat in all its glory until all of the rest of my meal was completed (maybe not a smart decision as it has resulted in more than one overstuff belly…). Then I took small bites, savoring it like a dessert, and maybe in some ways to me it was.
This cornbread is slightly sweet and that is perfect with all the savory at Thanksgiving dinner and with spicy food like chili. Normally I am not a huge fan of sweet, but for this I make an exception time and time again.
This recipe is one of those family recipes that slowly changes over the years depending on who is making it and the ingredients we have on hand. I don’t know what cookbook the recipe originated from, or if it even did. The story I remember is that the father of my brother’s friend made it one Thanksgiving and we asked him for the recipe, which he nicely supplied. Since then we have changed it up many times to result in the deliciousness it is today.
Note: For a fun decorative touch I added a blue cornbread swirl to the top. This is not traditional how it was made but I wanted to amp it up and bit for Thanksgiving and I think it turned out awesome! You do not have to do this. If you don’t use the blue cornmeal add ¼ cup yellow cornmeal more than the amount (total of 1 cup)
Simple Sweet Cornbread
Makes one 8×8 baking pan or about a dozen muffins
¾ cup (120 g) yellow cornmeal
1 ½ cups (160 g) whole wheat pastry flour*
2/3 cups (130g) sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 eggs, beaten***
1 ¼ cup milk**
¼ cup blue cornmeal
2 tablespoons milk
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8×8 inch square baking pan.
- Combine yellow cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
- In a medium bowl melt butter (I put it in the microwave for 30 seconds) then add honey, oil, and milk. Set aside. In a small bowl beat eggs.
- If you are doing the decorative topping, add blue cornmeal to a small bowl. Take two tablespoons of the wet mixture and add to bowl. Add additional milk as needed to make the mixture slightly liquid.
- Add wet mixture to dry yellow cornmeal mixture and stir slightly. Add eggs and stir until the batter is just blended. You do not need to remove all the lumps.
- Pour batter into prepared baking pan. If you are doing decorative topping, spoon blue cornmeal mixture over the top of the batter. It does not need to be even or pretty, you just need it to be in all parts of the batter (see first image below). Take some pointed object (I used a chopstick) and place the tip just in the batter. Run it back and forth across the batter until it has a fun pattern you like. I went back and forth once then rotated the pan and repeated for the design I have here.
- Place baking pan in oven and cook 35 to 40 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Allow to cool 10 minutes before cutting.
* If you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour you can use white flour, or half white and half whole wheat flour.
** I use whole milk for this recipe but you don’t have to. Also I recommend, for best results when adding the milk to the melted butter, that you use room temperature milk. If you take it out of the fridge right before using, microwave it a little bit so it isn’t so cold.
***I would also recommend that you let the eggs warm up to room temperature as well.
This recipe can also be baked as muffins! Below are two examples of muffins I baked with it. The muffin on the right is with a cast iron muffin pan and the one on the left is baked in silicon muffin/cupcake wrappers in a traditional muffin pan. They both turned out well but I the cast iron pan puffed up a lot more and I thought was lighter and more delicious. Reduce the baking time by 5 minutes if making muffins.
They are great for if you are traveling for Thanksgiving!