When I was fourteen years old, my mom flew out to Rochester, NY to visit me. She stayed in a hotel near Marketplace Mall, and I was going to stay with her for the weekend. My dad dropped me off after work that night. I still remember getting out of his 1980-something light blue Honda Civic. It was cold and wet and he was bundled up with his golfer’s cap and scarf. His work shoes had those rubber covers to protect them from the wet. He got out of the car with me. As I approached the door to the lobby, I could see my beautiful mother there in her gorgeous handmade woolen coat. My dad froze right before we got to the door and said goodbye to me. I was a little confused at the time, but I said goodbye right back and stepped through the glass doors and into the lobby. I looked back as the doors closed. My dad was still standing there. I kept walking and jumped into my mother’s arms.
That night, we had dinner at the restaurant in the hotel and we ordered some cornbread. It was fantastic. My mom and I were so enthusiastic about it that she bought a ‘cornbread’ skillet along with some cornbread mix. Since then, cornbread always reminds me of that awkward reunion and the tender but short moments spent with my mom that winter back in 1986.
The recipe I give you today is one I have enjoyed over many years. I scratched it into brown paper about twelve years ago. Every once in a while I adjust the recipe by adding things like blueberries or cut down on the sugar and add chipotle for a kick. Mostly, I like it just the way it is, served with a little butter and honey. This recipe makes a light and moist cornbread that is on the sweet side.
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 cup brown sugar (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter over low heat in a 9″ cast iron skillet, set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, stir the brown sugar into the buttermilk until any lumps of sugar dissolve. Add the egg and vanilla and lightly stir. Then, stir in the cooled melted butter.
2. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and lightly mix until any lumps of flour disappear. Do not over mix. Pour the batter into the buttered skillet and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.
Makes 1 loaf.