I have a weakness for cornbread. The crumbly texture, the salty yet somewhat sweet flavor, the fact it is so versatile – all these make cornbread one of my favorite breads. There are plenty of recipes for cornbread, including on this blog, however, I think you’ll agree there is always room for one more.
The version I have here is somewhat on the heavy side, as I’ve decided to add bacon bits to the batter, and substitute the original butter with the rendered bacon fat. The result is hearty, moist and very flavorful bread.
The bread is great on its own any time of the day, or served aside a soup or stew. It can be topped with pan fried garlicky cherry tomatoes, as shown in the above photo, or with poached eggs, sautéed greens, or any other addition you have in mind.
Whatever twist you want to add to it, it is the perfect comfort food. I’m sure you’ll agree, once you’ll try it.
A few notes:
* For a vegetarian version, omit the bacon and use same amount of soft butter, instead of the bacon fat.
* I prefer the coarse texture from stone-ground cornmeal. If you prefer finer texture, use fine ground cornmeal.
* The bread is moist and fairly soft after baking. For a crispy crust, pop it under the broiler, or place in a toaster oven for a few minutes.
* If the amount seems too big for your needs, bear in mind the bread freezes well, in an airtight container, for up to a month. Another option is to cut all the ingredient amounts in half and bake in a smaller pan.
Makes: 16 large squares
Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 45 minutes
For the bacon:
1 lb (450 grams) thick sliced bacon
For the fried onions:
2 medium onions, cut into medium cubes
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs bacon fat (see step 1)
For the cornbread:
1 cup flour
1 ½ cups stone-ground cornmeal
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 Tbs baking powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ cup bacon fat, at room temperature (see step 1)
2 L eggs
1¾ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
½ cup fried onions (see step 1)
1 cup bacon bits (see step 1)
1/3 cup chopped mini peppers
1. The bacon: cut the bacon into big cubes, place in a deep pot (to reduce spatters) over medium-high heat and cook until the water evaporates. Keep cooking, and drain the fat occasionally into a bowl, for about 15 minutes, until all that is left in the pot are crispy bacon bits and in the bowl you have about ¾ cup bacon fat. Keep at room temperature.
The fried onions: mix the cut onions, salt, pepper and 1 Tbs bacon fat in a small pot. Fry over medium-high heat, mixing occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the onion is golden brown. Keep at room temperature.
2. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Line a 12”x8” (20.5cm x 30cm) baking pan with baking paper.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder and cayenne pepper. Measure ½ cup of bacon fat and add to the bowl, with the eggs and buttermilk. Mix lightly and add the fried onions, bacon bits and mini peppers. Mix lightly and pour the batter into the lined pan. Level the top with a spatula and place in the oven.
4. Bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out almost clean. The bread should still be a bit moist. Holding the baking paper, transfer the bread to a rack to cool to room temperature. Transfer to a large cutting board and cut into large squares. Serve at room temperature.
5. The bread is moist and fairly soft. For a crispier crust, place the cut portion in a toaster oven for 3-4 minutes. Serve as is or top with sautéed garlicky cherry tomatoes.