When I officially wore myself out baking a few weeks ago and took an extended break, I’d like to say I missed the kitchen immediately, but I didn’t. For five days, I didn’t think about baking (or cooking) at all, except when slapping together a grilled cheese or scrambling eggs so that I didn’t have to live on restaurant food for a week.But then, on the sixth day (Friday), I woke up thinking about Cheesy Jalapeño Cornbread. I had all the ingredients (hi, I keep a weird bag of jalapeños in my crisper) and I wanted to make it so bad—the way only someone who obsessively bakes gets about a recipe, as though my body might just go into autopilot and start whisking together ingredients without permission from my brain.
Instead, my body and my brain went to see Uncut Gems, and baking stayed on the back burner for another three days.Then Monday came and lo,* there was Cheesy Jalapeño Cornbread, and it was good. Still is good. Like really good. It’s got crisp edges and a brown lid, but the center is tender and almost custard-like from the additions of sour cream and eggs. As it’s made with only yellow cornmeal, there’s no way to overmix and make it tough—difficult to overdevelop the gluten when there is none!
*I guess I say “lo” now.As far as spice levels go, I like to live on the edge….but I used three jalapeños with seeds in the first round and sort of regretted it. This one (the second) is still almost too spicy for me, even after discarding half the seeds, but a bevy of shredded sharp cheddar and a few tablespoons of sugar offset all that intensity. If you’re sensitive to heat, maybe forgo seeds altogether, reduce the amount of jalapeño or try my Chorizo Cornbread instead. Or maybe just make 2020 the year you accidentally burned off all your tastebuds with cornbread and lived to tell the tale.
…ten days into this year and I’m already maximum weird, y’all. Oh lord.
Cheesy Jalapeño Cornbread
makes one 9-inch pan
1 cup milk (not skim or non-fat), room temperature
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons granulated sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2-3/4 cup minced fresh jalapeños* (2-3 medium), with or without seeds
8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)
Preheat oven to 400F. Place a 9-inch cast iron or other heavyish baking dish it in the oven to heat through. (See note* if you do not have that sort of dish.)
Combine milk, sour cream, and eggs in a measuring cup or small/medium bowl. Whisk together with a fork. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add minced jalapeños and grated cheddar, and toss to coat. Pour in milk mixture and fold together. Fold in butter.
Remove hot pan from oven and add oil. Carefully swirl to coat. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving Warm.
Leftover cornbread will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days.
1. Some people prefer minced pickled jalapeño here, which adds a nice acidic flavor and will have less heat.
2. If using a regular 9-inch baking pan (round or square), grease it, line with parchment, and grease again. Do not preheat the empty pan. Skip the oiling step before adding batter to the pan.