A rustic, crackling cornbread full of texture and complex sweetness…slathered with a smooth, slightly spicy heirloom tomato butter.
The inspiration for this cornbread came from flipping through Sean Brock’s book, Heritage. The book is full of classic southern staples, personal family recipes, and artfully plated restaurant dishes. After seeing his “Crackling Cornbread”, I couldn’t help but run to the pantry and grab some cornmeal.
The main thing that intrigued me about the cornbread is the cooking method. You get your skillet hot in the oven, transfer it to the stove, add butter, pour in the batter so it sizzles, and finish it back in the blazing hot oven. This process creates a beautiful crust, with a soft interior.
I’ve added a burnt honey component, simply because I’ve been wanting to make burnt honey, and it seemed like the perfect complex element to make the taste of the cornbread richer. The burnt honey is bitter on its own, but when mixed with the cornbread batter, the bitterness subsides and the sweetness remains.
With tomato season in full swing, I’ve been using all the tomatoes in any way I can think of. The result…a tangy, sweet tomato jam whipped into butter. It is the perfect spread for the cornbread. The recipe makes a bit more than you’ll need for one batch of cornbread, but trust me, you’ll want to keep this butter in the fridge and use it on everything (my suggestions: slather it on a thick piece of toasted sourdough or melt it in a pan for tossing with fresh pasta).
For the finishing touch, I like to drizzle this cornbread with extra honey. Enjoy!
- 2 lbs heirloom tomatoes, diced
- 6 oz brown sugar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 dried chiles de arbol
- ½ lb butter, softened
- ½ cup honey
- 2 cups stone ground cornmeal
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk
- Combine the tomatoes, brown sugar, honey, and apple cider vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the dried chiles. Continue to cook until the mixture has completed reduced and thickened (there should be no runny liquid left). Let cool.
- Combine the cooled tomato mixture and the softened butter in a food processor. Process until smooth. Reserve the butter at room temperature until serving. Any extra tomato butter can be refrigerated for another use.
- Add the honey to a small saucepan. Over high heat, let the honey boil for about 5-8 minutes, whisking continuously until it has darkened in color. If you stop whisking, the honey will likely bubble out of the pan. Let the burnt honey cool.
- Preheat the oven to 450F. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat the egg. Slowly stream in the buttermilk and cooled honey. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.
- Let the batter sit while you transfer the skillet(s) to the oven…use 1 (12-inch) skillet or 3 (6.5-inch) skillets. Let preheat in the oven for 10 minutes. Carefully transfer the hot skillet(s) to the stovetop and heat over high heat. Add a piece of butter to the hot skillet to coat the bottom well. Once sizzling, pour the batter into the skillet(s). Transfer them back to the oven and bake until golden brown and crackling, 8 minutes for the 6.5-inch skillets and 16 minutes for the 12-inch skillet. Check that the cornbread is cooked by inserting a toothpick and ensure it comes out clean. Let the cornbread cool slightly. Serve with a generous slab of tomato butter and an extra drizzle of honey, if you’d like.