I’m not sure what it is about cornbread, but I am happy to eat any version of it, any time. Tall, buttery, light northern cornbread slathered with butter? Check. Thinner, more savory southern-style cornbread with a pile of meat next to it? Also great. Boxed mix from Trader Joe’s, crumbly square from the Ikea food counter, as bread crumbs in my Thanksgiving stuffing, I will take it all. And this version, with bacon, jalapeno, and cheddar, is my new favorite to make at home. It might be because you cook it in the same skillet you use to fry the bacon, so you have bacon flavor baked right into the crust. Or that the sharp cheddar and jalapeno give this version a kick to take it from sweet to spicy and back again. Or that it just looks so darn pretty. Or all of the above. Have I convinced you to try it yet?
We are zooming toward the end of October, with Halloween and it’s joyful craziness right around the corner. There is a lot going on here at the Today We Bake house. I tend to be at my best when I’m busy, but I think I may have pushed a little too far this fall. So on days when there’s too much bouncing around in my brain, I try to carve out some time to bake something. Cooking with intention, to feed the people I love, slows me right down and puts things in perspective. This cornbread is a perfect recipe for that, since it only takes thirty minutes to prepare and it works for any time of the day.
This is adapted from a Mark Bittman recipe (he’s the best) in How To Bake Everything. I took his northern cornbread recipe and swapped out half of the butter for bacon fat, then added in crispy bacon, jalapenos, and sharp cheddar cheese. I also didn’t whip the egg whites like in his version, because I was going for a more southern-style bread and didn’t need the height that whipping the whites gives. But if you like your cornbread on the fluffier side, you can separate the eggs, beat the whites, and then add them back in as a last step before putting this in the oven.
The recipe starts with cooking eight strips of bacon in a cast iron skillet. Cooking it there allows you to use the same skillet to cook the cornbread without washing another dish, and the bottom and sides of the finished bread will have a crispy texture and bacon flavor. Once it’s crispy, use a slotted spoon to remove it and put the strips on a paper towel to drain off excess fat. Reserve two tablespoons of the bacon fat left in the cast iron skillet, and pour off the rest. De-seed and de-rib the jalapenos (or don’t if you like things really spicy), and shred the cheese.
Then it’s time to mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and whisk the wet ingredients together in another bowl. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry, then add in the bacon, jalapeno and cheddar. Finally, add in the melted butter and reserved bacon fat, and pour the whole mixture into the cast iron skillet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, and you will have cornbread that’s crispy on the edges and beautifully golden on top. Once it’s cooled enough to handle, cut out wedges right from the pan and serve.
- 1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 jalapeno
- ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 8 slices bacon
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Chop the bacon into bite-sized pieces, and de-seed and de-rib the jalapeno and dice it finely.
- Cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet. Once it’s cooked, remove it with a slotted spoon and pour the bacon fat into a heatproof bowl.
- Stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and the buttermilk. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and mix until combined. Stir in the jalapeno, cheddar cheese, and bacon.
- Stir in the melted butter and 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Stir to combine, then pour the mixture back into the skillet. Bake at 400°F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the sides have started to pull away from the sides of the skillet and the top is lightly browned. Let it cool for a few minutes in the skillet before running a knife around the edges and using a small spatula to take out wedges.