Our dear friend Janet Stelzer’s Aunt Elfred must have been one magnificent cook because this corn bread is dynamite. I spent years testing dozens of promising corn bread recipes, never quite achieving the light, tender goodness of Aunt Elfred’s superlative version.
Then, one very cold, snowy, star-filled New Year’s Eve, Janet threw a grand party and served this corn bread, along with an array of other soul-warming dishes. I begged the recipe from her, and now here you have it as well—just in time for your own big night or the relaxing day after.
As you can see in the recipe, the elusive lightness stems from the use of oil as the fat and an uncharacteristically low cornmeal proportion. In fact, Aunt Elfred’s corn bread is very nearly a cake, although it does not lack cornmeal taste.
You can throw it together quickly and be eating it 30 minutes later. The directions also tell you how to make it partially ahead, which is a good idea if you are serving it to a large gathering of friends.
Aunt Elfred’s Corn Bread
This is a marvelous corn bread, high, light, and delicious. It’s as marvelous with a spot of afternoon tea as it is with LunaCafe’s hearty Black Bean Ancho Chili.
DO AHEAD If desired, the liquid ingredients, along with the cornmeal, can be mixed together ahead and refrigerated, while the dry ingredients can be sifted and set aside. Don’t combine the two elements until just before baking, however, or the leavening gases will be lost. This corn bread is best served right out of the oven.
1½ cups King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup whole or 2% milk
½ cup yellow cornmeal
½ cup stemmed, seeded and deribbed, minced jalapeno chile pepper
½ cup minced green onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary or thyme
1. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Reserve.
2. In another medium mixing bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil and sugar.
3. Blend in the eggs thoroughly, and then whisk in the milk and cornmeal, along with any of the optional ingredients, if using.
4. Add the flour mixture and mix gently until just combined. The batter will still be a little lumpy.
5. Pour into a lightly greased 8- by 8-inch square metal baking pan or fill 9-10 indents of a mini popover or muffin pan about three-quarters full each (add an inch or so of water to each of the empty indents).
6. Bake at 400°, in the upper third of the oven, for about 30 minutes for the square baking pan or about 20-22 minutes for the popover or muffin pan. When done, the cornbread will be lightly browned on top and will spring back when touched in the center.
7. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on a wire rack.
8. Cut into squares or remove from the popover or muffin pan and serve warm.
Makes sixteen, 2-inch squares or 9-10 mini popovers or muffins.