Aunt Elfred’s New Year’s Eve Corn Bread

Closeup of Aunt Elfred's Corn Bread Muffins
Our dear friend Janet Stelzer’s Aunt Elfred must have been one magnificent cook because her 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.
Aunt Elfred's Corn Bread with Black Bean Ancho ChiliThen, 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.


Basket of Aunt Elfred's Corn Bread MuffinsAs 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 recipe also tells you how to make it partially ahead, which is a good idea if you are serving it to a large gathering of friends.

Preparation for Aunt Elfred's New Year's Eve Corn Bread

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.

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  1. Sheena Ong says

    The ingredients reveal a very healthy baked goodie. I think what makes it more appealing is that it looks like a muffin and not your ordinary bread forms. I would love to try this one weekend, experiment some additional ingredients. Any other ideas what I can put in?

    Sheena Ong

  2. vannie says

    What a very healthy cornbread!.. Gonna try that one some other time. If I’m not busy. Thanks for sharing it. I love it!

  3. Tracy says

    I made these muffins yesterday for a BBQ and everyone loved them! I used coconut oil for the oil and dried rosemary for the savory and they were damn good! Thanks for the recipe!

      • Kate says

        …and here I am, three years later, coming back to reprint this recipe because mine is destroyed from using so often. It’s Thanksgiving and what am I doing at nearly 4:00 p.m.? Making some cornbread for my greens! (No Turkey Dinner for me this year). I think I definitely have the better end of the bargain because while I’m dining solo this year, I have greens, pot likker, and this, my favorite cornbread in the universe.

        • Susan S. Bradley says

          Kate, wish I could have joined you for that meal. Sounds divine! So glad you love Aunt Elfred’s cornbread as much as I do. :-)

        • Kate says

          Wow, I first printed this in 2009! Time for another reprint, as I destroy my copy pretty frequently. This is the internet recipe I’ve made the most often over the years. I wish I was a generous as you in sharing it with others, but I don’t. I am always tasked to bring cornbread, but I don’t tell anyone it’s Aunt Elfred’s. They just wonder, ask, try to recreate and never come up with this recipe, my favorite muffin of all time.

  4. says

    Dare I hope?! You’ve described the perfect cornbread which has eluded me for so long. I so dislike the heavy, gritty, wet recipes I’ve had thus far. THIS is the description I’ve been looking for. I shall give it a try this weekend.

    • sms bradley says

      Kate, yes, this is just what you are looking for! Not heavy, not gritty, not at all wet. Instead, it’s high and light with a lovely cornmeal flavor. Oh I wish I had some left right now. :-)

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