I love to cook. I think (and I’m told) that I’m good at it most of the time. I enjoy playing with recipes and making shit up as I go along.
I like to bake. I think I’m OK-to-good at it most of the time if I have a recipe to follow to a T. (Though I’m really starting to get into making bread and pizza. But that’s mostly cause I can eat bread and pizza erryday and cookies/cakes/sweets are a sometimes treat that frankly most of the time I’m not that into anyway because I’ll take salty over sweet pretty much any time.)
Because many, many people are far, far better bakers than me, almost any time I bake I consult one of my trusted baking oracles:
- Old family recipes (duh, and also thank you Kerry for hooking me up on the not-yet-inlaw Staurseth side)
- Christina Tosi from Momofuku Milk Bar (OMG her corn cookies are out of a dreamworld)
- Serious Eats (bc science)
- Flour Water Salt Yeast or Tartine Bread (for breads obv)
- Michael Ruhlman (Who I really should only refer to as Michael Fucking Ruhlman because he is So. Damn. Good. at cooking – I assume – and writing about food and also making kitchen gadgets and if you happen to be reading this Michael can you please, please re-open your online shop because I never got that offset spoon or egg-poaching spoon I wanted, and my spanky has seen better days because I use it All. The. Time. Thanks.)
Anyway, MFR has a cookbook that I refer to constantly, particularly for baking, called Ratio. (He actually has several cookbooks/not cookbooks, and has written cookbooks for chefs like THOMAS FUCKING KELLER and MICHAEL FUCKING SYMON. He has a cookbook all about eggs called Egg that came with a little poster about all the ways you can cook an egg and I framed it and have it hanging in my kitchen. He has a cookbook called Ruhlman’s Twenty that has the 20 basic recipes you need to make just about anything ever, and includes the best recipe for shrimp & grits I’ve ever attempted. He has a cookbook all about schmaltz that is an ode to the delicious golden goodness that is rendered chicken fat and used in many traditional Jewish recipes. I don’t even think dude is Jewish; he just fucking loves schmaltz.
Ratio is a cookbook that provides ratios (obv) for a ton of things you might want to make or cook. By learning ratios, and what key ingredients do, you can play with the ingredients and make twists on classics. This book was a godsend for the brief stint in my life when I thought I could survive without cheese and went vegan. And I also use it to make fun things like this super-delicious, sweet-and-savory, slightly-spicy-if-you-want-it-to-be, incredibly moist cornbread. Thank you, Mr. Ruhlman, for your many contributions to my kitchen. Like this one.
Mr. Ruhlman is from my hometown of Cleveland so maybe there’s a little bit of favoritism here but seriously, if you like to cook and don’t know anything about him I highly recommend you check his stuff out. And this post has turned into a love letter to Michael Ruhlman but is in fact a love letter to moist cornbread soooooo back to the story at hand we go.)
How to make the most moist cornbread ever:
“Literally unflawed,” says my coworker Kayla.
- 4 oz flour**
- 4 oz cornmeal (I like the coarse kind, but that’s me)
- 4 oz sugar
- 1 t salt**
- 2 t baking powder
- 4 oz melted butter
- 4 oz milk**
- 2 oz sour cream
- 8 oz creamed corn
- 2 eggs
- 1 tin (5 oz ish) fire-roasted green chiles
- A few chopped pickled jalapenos (optional, if you’ve got em)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a baking vessel. For this, I prefer a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Anything about that size will do; cooking time will vary a bit based on the what it’s made of.
In one bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. In another, whisk together the wet. Put the stuff in the smaller bowl into the bigger bowl and stir just enough to bring everything together.
Pour into prepared dish.
Bake until done. For me, this is about 40 minutes, but I start checking at 30. I consider this done when:
- The edges of the cornbread are beginning to brown and pull from the edges of the pan.
- I can answer yes to “Does this not jiggle?” and “Can I touch the top without fucking it up?”
- A toothpick comes out clean. Note: Because this cornbread is so moist, the toothpick will come out looking wet. That’s ok, you just don’t want it to have batter on it.
If it feels done but doesn’t have as much golden goodness as you want to see on top (which might happen because, again, this thing is super moist) toss that bad boy under the broiler for a minute or two.
Remove from oven. Let it sit in the pan for a few minutes (like 5 should do), then gently invert the pan onto a cooling rack. Cool cornbread at least a bit before you slice it. I recommend a serrated knife and a gentle hand. Moist cornbread is fragile.
Serve (ideally with chili) and enjoy!
*My partner Brock absolutely hates the word moist. I used it as many times as possible in this post because it’s accurate and sometimes it’s fun to make him squirm. He hosts bar trivia, and one time my friends and I made our team name Moist something just to make him say it. Good times.
**This post outlines the basics for all common ingredients that I mention. For example, in this case: Flour = AP flour (King Arthur brand). Salt = Diamond Kosher. Milk = Whole. Always. And typically Oberweiss because it’s delicious and if you return the container you get deposit money back and they reuse them. Yay environment.