Buttery, sweet cornbread doubles as dessert

The Whole Dish podcast: Savory cornbread makes for an easy layered casserole

Cornbread came to mind when a friend asked what to make to augment a take-away dinner of chicken chili Colorado.

But skipping our cooking duties for the evening was the whole point behind picking up a meal ready to reheat and eat from the Fry Family Farm Store. So I downgraded the side dish to steamed brown rice for soaking up the succulent chicken’s sauce and accenting the creamy pinto beans.

Rice was fine choice, but it’s hard to beat tender, moist cornbread with spicy stews. A buttermilk-based, barely sweetened cornbread is one of the only foods that I crave drizzled in honey. I’ve gravitated to this Southern-style bread, often baked in a cast-iron pan, although I grew up eating sweetened cornbread with a greater ratio of wheat flour that’s more common in the northern United States.

Hailing from Virginia, this recipe combines the South’s cast-iron cooking and plenty of sugar in a nearly 50-50 ratio of cornbread to flour, making for a cornbread that almost doubles as dessert. Something tells me that my family, often ambivalent to cornbread, would have no problem gobbling up this one.

Tribune News Service photo

Bruleed Cast-Iron Cornbread

2 heaping cups (9 ounces) all-purpose flour

2 1/4 cups (11 ounces) cornmeal

1 cup sugar, plus extra for brûléeing

2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

3 cups whole milk (approximately), divided

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted, divided

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, 1 cup sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with 1 cup of the milk. Slowly whisk liquids in with dry ingredients.

Continue adding more milk, slowly whisking it in, until batter is thick but pourable. You may not use all milk.

Whisk in 1/2 cup of the melted butter. This makes about 5 cups batter. Set batter aside to rest for up to an hour. Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 F.

Lightly oil a 10-inch, cast-iron skillet and place in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Pour batter into heated skillet and bake until golden around edges and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, for about 30 minutes.

Brush reserved melted butter across top of cornbread and sprinkle over a light coating of sugar. Place bread under broiler or use a torch to brûlée sugar until it caramelizes. Serve warm.

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Adapted by the Los Angeles Times from a recipe provided by Zynodoa Restaurant in Staunton, Va.

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