My local supermarket recently set aside some shelves for non-traditional items. I’m guessing it’s on a trial basis, but I’m always curious to see what’s new and exciting in the land of food retail. (Hey, you have to get your jollies where you can).


One of the items that caught my eye was a big bag of corn meal (corn flour), and I decided I’d see if I could bake myself some ultimate American cornbread. Simple, you’d think? Well, that’s what I foolishly assumed when I began my searching, but what I discovered was it’s a real minefield out there, with devotees for variations from both north and south, sweet and salty, and with various additions including actual corn kernels, corn puree, cheese, bacon grease and chillies.

I was in a fog of indecision until I stumbled across this recipe from an old farming magazine from 1847. Several things about the recipe appealed to me, not least because it claimed the resultant ‘cakes’ would be light and honeycombed. Other details that made it stand out from the many other recipes I had been seeing were that it was yeast raised, sugar free, fat free and gluten free. In addition, unlike many of the modern recipes, it contained solely corn meal and unlike the modern gluten-free recipes, there was no additional alchemy required in the form of different flours and additives to put in.

The method varied too, with the batter being set to rise overnight using yeast, and then, once the other ingredients had been added, being poured into a cold pan before baking. Actually, the original recipe didn’t specifically say that it should be a cold pan, it just said to bake it, but since all of the other recipes were most insistent that the pan be roaring hot before adding the corn mix, that’s what I did for the first trial run. It wasn’t a success. The extreme heat killed the yeast on the edges, so while the middle rose delightfully, the edges were heavy and hard. Subsequent trial runs with a cold pan were much more successful, as the picture above illustrates. I used my non-stick, heavy 24cm diameter saute pan to bake the bread in the oven, because the handle is removable.

Excuse me for banging on, but this recipe is yet another example of why I love old recipes so much. Simple, wholesome ingredients that can be enjoyed without the need for complicated additives or specialised components. The only requirement for this particular recipe is time – remembering to mix up the corn meal and yeast the night before – or in the morning if you want to enjoy it with your evening meal.

It was delicious warm from the oven, with butter and honey, for breakfast. Other uses are as an accompaniment to, for example, chilli, gumbo, jambalaya. It’s best eaten warm, but once cold, can also be easily reheated with a quick zap in the microwave or oven. I turned the remainder into crumbs and froze them, ready to use in meatballs, stuffing and as coating for home-made chicken nuggets and fish fingers.

Feel free to customise this to your own tastes by adding whatever flavourings take your fancy, but I hope you’ll try it just once as is, in all its splendid simplicity.

Jenna in Ohio – I hope you approve! 😀


Mixture 1
450g corn meal
1 sachet easyblend yeast
1tsp salt
warm water to mix

  • Put the corn meal, salt and yeast into a bowl and add enough water until the mixture is easy to stir. It varied, depending on the moisture content of the corn meal, but you’ll need to add between 600ml – 1200ml (1-2 pints). It will have the consistency of a loose batter.
  • Cover with cling film and leave overnight or for at least 8 hours.

Mixture 2
1 large egg
2tbs milk [1]
2tbs plain yogurt [1]
1 rounded tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Grease a 24cm deep, heavy pan or skillet.
  • Whisk the ingredients for Mixture 2 together and then whisk it into the cornmeal.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes, turning the pan around after 20 minutes to ensure even colouring. Check for done-ness by inserting a cocktail stick into the centre.
  • If the top seems to be browning too quickly, slide a sheet of either foil or parchment over the pan.
  • Serve warm from the pan.

[1] You can use 60ml or 4tbs of buttermilk if you prefer.


6 Comments on “Cornbread”

  1. Jenna says:

    Definitely approve! In point of fact, the 2nd batch went into the oven a few minutes ago, to be the perfect pairing with some chili for dinner once the spousal unit gets his buns home.This recipe is oddly enough a near perfect blend of the 2 versions of cornbread my family eats – and is the point of serious contention for various sides of my family. While my grandparents are, for the most part first generation Americans (youngest in very large families, and in 3 out of the 4, the only ones who were born here, after the rest had immigrated from Ireland, Scotland and Wales.) almost all their male children and the various nephews and cousins seemed to marry Southern girls while the girls married Northern boys. Which tends to cause more then a few tense standoffs – and why most of my cousins can’t cook at all, they got tired of being pulled back and forth, I’m the lone food nerd – at family dinners. The northern side would blink at this recipe in confusion and wonder where the sugar was. Or at least the maple syrup, maple strap (that’s unrefined maple syrup before it’s cooked down. Incredibly light, barely sweet, thin and clear…. it’s amazing. And explains the pictures there are of me licking a tree at it’s spout along with several cousins working on other trees spouts!) molasses, SOMETHING. But the yeast portion is perfectly my Maine and Massachusetts family leaning method. The lack of sweetener is straight southern. You save the sugar for the sweet tea, and use the cornbread to mop up your dinner. Once I was diagnosed with celiac, cornbread become my saving grace for a time and I’ve cook a hundred different things, dozens of different ways to make use of this thankfully safe grain – but I’ve never, before yesterday’s first batch tried a non-sweetened yeasted version… and it is simply spectacular. (Which explains the whole ‘2nd batch in 2 days’ thing) This 2nd go round, I’m using buttermilk – as a celiac, it’s more important for me to keep buttermilk in the house then xanthan gum. Making anything with buttermilk and allowing it to sit, on the counter or the fridge for a bit, softens rice and other hard flours a treat and gets rid of that awful gritty texture so much GF food has. More and more I’m learning towards cornmeal, cornflour, and cornstarch for recipes and getting rid of xanthan and tapioca flour. Long as I keep dent corn & GF steel cut oats (I have a grain mill, so I can get flour of any consistency at need or use them whole. I prefer to keep my options open as long as I can) in the cupboard and buttermilk in the fridge, I can stay quite happily fed!

    Oh….. horsenuts and bother. I’ve prattled again, sorry. I wish I could say it’s not normal for me, but the scary thing is, when it comes to subjects I’m nerdily passionate about, from food to history (to history of food…), books and more – I can wax way too far. I’m also not helped by being currently ‘grounded’ and not allowed to stand for more than 5 minutes at a shot for the next week. I don’t DO sitting well. Which, in the end, is yet another reason why this recipe is perfect. Dump, mix, set aside, wait, dump, mix, bake. All steps that I can do in 5 minute increments and therefore NOT get yelled at by my well meaning but seriously nanny goating spouse. And if anyone actually manages to mow through this morass of nonsense at the end of a perfectly splendid recipe – allow me to end the prattle with happy confirmation that this recipe not only works, not only is perfect hot with a meal…. it’s great cold. It’s great savory. It’s lovely hot and used to make quickie french toast. It’s just lovely. I think I’ll make another batch in a few days – using either my red popcorn flour or my blue… hmmm. Decisions, decisions! WWND? (my most used decision maker – ‘what would Nanny do?’)

  2. Sue says:

    I am interested in looking at other recipes from that book or article. – Could you let us know where you found this recipe, please? What cook book contained this recipe?
    I enjoy reading about your food history research.

  3. Jane Dixon says:

    Hi love your recipe can I ask where you bought your cornmeal in uk? Is it same as polenta or maize meal? Thanks Jane

    • MAB says:

      Wotchers Jane!
      I found it in Sainsbury’s – 1.5kg bag, brand name Natco. It’s flour-fine cornmeal, so a bit finer than polenta.
      Hope this helps! M-A 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.