There are a few things everyone needs in their life. A friend who loves you no matter what. Chocolate cake. A car mechanic who doesn’t overcharge. And a recipe for perfect cornbread muffins. Cornbread is that all-American comfort food that goes with just about anything. Well, anything with the words “down-home,” “country-cookin’,” or “barbecue” in front of it. Not to mention soups, stews, and chilis. And Mexican-flavored dishes. And butter and jam. The more I make cornbread, the more multipurpose I realize it is. In fact, cornbread has a long history of satisfying American hunger.
Corn-based dishes have been made since time immemorial by the Native peoples of the Americas, but when European settlers arrived in the colonial era, they began using corn in place of wheat in breads. Throughout the Civil War, cornbread became especially popular because of its versatility and cheapness. Since then, it has remained a staple of Southern and Western food.
Whatever its history, this cornbread muffin recipe is my call-off-the-search gold standard. After experimenting with numerous other versions, I slightly modified this one from an unlikely place: a hand-me-down Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter’s Cookbook my mom gave me. (No, I don’t think she was trying to make a statement about my weight. Just downsizing. Her downsizing. From a house. Just digging the hole deeper here, aren’t I?) Despite being a little dated at 18 years old, it’s a cookbook that’s been a surprising resource for me. I’ve gotten numerous recipes I trust from it.
This particular recipe produces a muffin that’s a little dense, not too sweet, and—possibly most important to me—holds its shape beautifully. While some folks want their cornbread crumbs to mix and mingle with accompanying foods, I am more of a cornbread isolationist. A plate for everything and everything in its plate. While you could of course crumble these muffins up into a chili garnish, they’re not going to fall apart the minute you bite into them. They also fit squarely in the dinner category, not corn-flavored dessert.
So allow me to introduce you to your new stew-adorning, barbecue-loving, Mexican-dish-complementing favorite cornbread. (Complete with lots of pictures. It’s apparently quite photogenic.) I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Perfect Cornbread Muffins
(Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter’s Cookbook)
1 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. yellow cornmeal
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 c. milk
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease 8 cups of a muffin tin.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a smaller bowl, stir together egg, milk, and oil. Add egg mixture to dry mixture, stirring until just smooth. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling about 3/4 full.
3. Bake about 12 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Remove carefully from pan and serve warm.
Makes 8 muffins.