Although we eat cornbread frequently throughout the year, it always seems like a perfect Autumn side dish to me. Maybe it’s the connection of corn with the idea of the harvest or just the fact that cornbread is such a great accompaniment to the soups and stews we eat often in the Fall. Whatever the reason for my seasonal favoring, cornbread is always a fast, delicious side dish that is so easy to make and very hard to ruin. I generally make cornbread from scratch at home, but when I was buying cornmeal recently I decided to pick up a Marie Callender’s cornbread mix and see how it measured up to homemade. My usual cornbread recipe is an adaptation of the recipe found on the back of a box of Quacker yellow cornmeal. I find with cornbread that I tend to like the most basic recipe without any extra flavors or frills added. I use buttermilk in this recipe, but you can also use regular milk; I have made it both ways.
Honey Buttermilk Cornbread
I usually like to make this in a buttered 10-inch cast iron skillet, but for the sake of this comparison I baked both cornbread’s in 9-inch round cake pans. It can also be baked in an 8-inch square pan. To bake in a cast iron skillet: melt about a tablespoon of butter in a cast iron skillet, swirling to coat the entire bottom of the pan with a layer of butter, be careful not to burn the butter. Pour the cornbread batter directly into the hot skillet and then transfer immediately to the preheated oven.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients until well blended. In a measuring cup or another medium bowl, whisk together the milk, honey, butter and egg.
2. Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon just until moistened, some lumps will remain. Pour the batter into a buttered skillet, 9-inch round pan, or 8-inch square pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cornbread is browned at the edges and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan.
As the pictures show, the homemade cornbread and that made from a mix looked remarkably similar. If anything, the cornbread from a mix looked more attractive with a slightly domed, golden brown top. Despite these outward similarities, the two cornbreads tasted very different. The cornbread from a mix looked great, but it was overly sweet with a metallic aftertaste and, worst of all, it had a very moist texture that turned gummy when it was chewed. My husband liked the homemade cornbread better because it tasted “cornier”, which is apparently a compliment when it comes to cornbread. I could see what he meant as the mix cornbread had very little actual corn flavor and certainly did not have the texture of cornmeal at all. This probably has a lot to do with ones personal preferences, but I definitely prefer a cornbread that is a bit dry and mealy feeling rather than moist and gummy. The homemade and mix cornbreads were very close to each other in the time category. While the homemade obviously takes a bit longer to mix up, the cornbread from a mix actually took nearly 10 minutes longer to cook, making the total preparation times very close to one another. Cornbread is a very cheap dish to prepare, whether using a mix or making it from scratch, so I’m not sure how much cost matters in this comparison but, for what it’s worth, the homemade was a bit cheaper.
Bottom Line: Both homemade and from-a-mix cornbread are fast, easy, and cheap to prepare making it an ideal side dish. However, homemade cornbread had a more pleasing texture and flavor and was a bit cheaper and faster to make than cornbread made from a mix. Homemade cornbread was the obvious winner in this comparison on all fronts.
|Honey Buttermilk Cornbread||Marie Callender’s Cornbread Mix’|
|Cost: $1.40||Cost: $2.33|
|Time: 28 minutes||Time: 35 minutes|