The Perfectly Creamy One-Bowl Cornbread Recipe That Lifts My Spirits
Full disclosure: I spent the first weeks of quarantine baking bread. That run on yeast? My bad. The millennial in me jumped out. In those early days of quarantine, I found a sense of accomplishment in the kitchen at the end of a long work day. First there was focaccia bread. Next, peasant bread. The classic no-knead bread recipe followed, and then a misguided attempt at a mille-feuille that ended in tears and an argument with my partner.
After baking (and eating) my way through about 12 weeks under lockdown, binging on Disney recipes, and tossing out more sourdough starters than I care to admit, I returned to this staple of my childhood, what I call Brionna’s Dumb-Easy Creamy Cornbread. At the risk of sounding like Kevin from The Office, it’s probably the thing I do best.
Baking became a reliable stress reliever, and in the week between May 25 and June 1, I made three loaves of cornbread as I turned to the kitchen to deal with the absolute onslaught of news, and the subsequent protests and actions that ignited around the world in a global call for justice in the face of institutional racism. I parceled half-loaves and gifted them (at a social distance, of course) to friends and protestors, alongside bottles of water and hand sanitizer, as a minuscule token of gratitude and a gentle reminder that we all need to care for and nourish ourselves, no matter the circumstances.
This recipe has its roots in my passive-aggressive adolescence in Missouri. Growing up, kitchen duty was my chore of choice. Yes, it meant busting suds after each family meal, but it also meant getting to be the resident taste tester during our Sunday dinners. One evening at age 15, as I looked around the kitchen at my aunt and cousin whipping up dish after dish, I realized that no one ever asked me to cook for them—even in the most dire situations. Turns out, my family wasn’t impressed with my personal menu of boxed Stove Top stuffing and cranberry sauce for dinner four nights a week, accompanied by a side of Pillsbury flaky layer biscuits and frozen spinach. What can I say, they’re bougie like that.
In 2006, the week before Thanksgiving dinner, my Aunt Marilyn sat me down and placed in my hands a yellowing sheet of paper with faded ink: It was a recipe she’d perfected years before, and she was ready to share it with me. In that moment, I found my thing.
From the first time I prepared this cornbread (my aunt was very impressed, thank you), I knew this recipe would last a lifetime. The entire prep process takes less than five minutes from pantry to oven, making it the perfect companion piece for a week’s worth of at-home meals.
Over the years I’ve adapted the recipe to fit my lifestyle. When I went to college, it became the ultimate homesickness comfort food. I’d bake cornbread muffins in my sub-par dorm oven on a weekly basis, feeling one step closer to home with each bite. I turned it into the centerpiece of my early 20s dinner parties in New York City, complete with star-shaped cornbread cut-outs with a pat of butter on top. These days I keep at least three loaves worth of raw ingredients on hand any time.
What really makes this cornbread stand out is the addition of cream-style corn and coconut milk. The moist corn kernels lend a heartiness to the cornbread and help the loaf maintain its shape, while the coconut milk provides a dairy-free twist and adds an unexpected lightness and silky texture. Trust me, these two secret ingredients will change the way you experience cornbread.
But before I share the recipe, it’s important to understand that cornbread is, in essence, a food group in my hometown of St. Louis. Ask 314 people for their go-to cornbread recipe, and you'll get 314 different responses.
As a proud native of Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb that was the site of protests over the killing of Michael Brown in 2014, I of course had to celebrate the fact that Ella Jones was elected our first Black and first female mayor with this dear recipe, but I accept that you may have different preferences. I, for example, have never loved jalapeño pepper or cheese in cornbread, but others heap on outlandish toppings and mix-ins. That’s the magic of my not-so-famous cornbread recipe: It’s customizable, and nothing is off-limits. Flax seeds? Go for it. A dash of harissa powder? Live a little.
In these unprecedented times, as people around the world take to the streets to protest in the fight for justice, I hope this recipe restores your spirit and brings back memories of time spent breaking bread with loved ones, in person. Cornbread can’t solve all our problems, but hopefully it can give you a little strength as you navigate this moment. Try out the recipe below, and bookmark it for your first post-protest (or post-quarantine) potluck.
- 4 cups yellow self-rising cornmeal
- 3 eggs
- 1 can cream-style corn
- 1 can coconut milk
- ½ cup oil
- ½ cup ground chia, flax, and hemp seeds (optional)
- 2 tablespoons rosemary, thyme, and any other preferred herbs
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Butter an 11" cake pan or cast-iron skillet or a 9"x5" loaf pan to ensure cornbread doesn’t stick.
- Combine cornmeal, eggs, and cream-style corn in a medium bowl.
- Slowly add coconut milk, stirring until it’s all been mixed into the cornmeal mixture
- Add salt, ground seeds (if using), and herbs; stir vigorously until batter is thoroughly mixed.
- Pour into pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 60 minutes. You’re looking for a light-brown top with crispy, buttery edges.
- Let cool, and enjoy. Double-dare you not to cut two slices for yourself.
Brionna Jimerson is the associate social media manager at Glamour.
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