Cornbread is a subject of vigorous debate in the South, and whether to add sugar is especially particularly divisive. Given that my family only recently immigrated to the South, the reason I love sugar in my cornbread isn’t because it’s the way my family has always done it, but simply because it’s what I like.
As a result of having little tradition to anchor me to how cornbread “should” be, but loving it all the same, I’ve slowly come to a version that is unabashedly untraditional, sidestepping all debates about sugar and landing on a quirky recipe that has just a bit of Eastern influence. It is plenty sweet, of course, but also subtly smoky and nutty from sesame seeds. You can brush more sesame oil on after baking to bring out the flavor even more strongly, or you can serve it with butter and a bit of honey—this is no traditional cornbread, after all, so it’s up to you.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously brush a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with butter and place it in the oven while the oven preheats.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sesame seeds, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk, Greek yogurt, eggs, melted butter, and 4 tablespoons of the honey. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix just until combined. The batter will be lumpy.
- When the oven is hot, remove the skillet and pour in the batter. It should sizzle. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the skillet, the center of the cornbread bounces back when touched, and a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of the cornbread comes out clean.
- While the cornbread is baking, whisk together the remaining tablespoon honey and the sesame oil. When the cornbread is done, remove from oven and brush the honey-sesame oil mixture evenly over the top. Sprinkle with additional sesame seeds and serve warm, with more butter or sesame oil, if desired.
Reprinted from A Common Table. Copyright © 2018 Cynthia Chen McTernan. Published by Rodale, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography by Cynthia Chen McTernan.