I can’t begin to express how giddy this recipe makes me!
First of all, it’s rhubarb! If you know me even a little, and reading this blog should give you a good indication, I adore rhubarb. Rhubarb season means that Spring is here, and I could almost cry when I know that the season is coming to an end.
Second, it’s cornbread. Cornbread has always been like kryptonite to me. And my whole adult life has been in the pursuit of the best, most moist, tender sweet and spicy cornbread. Not dry and crumbly. Not so cakey and uber sweet so that it tastes like dessert. Not bland or filled with dried out kernels of corn that make my mouth feel all mealy. I can honestly say that the best cornbread I’ve ever had was in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It was all of the above. Savoury cornbread (the kind that can stand on it’s own or accompany a good bowl of chilli) should have some cheese, jalapeño and even some sautéed veggies, if done right.
Third, it has the perfect balance of sweet to spicy. I love it when you can sense the honey at the beginning of a piece of cornbread, but then get that warm kick of chilli pepper at the end. Just enough to warm your mouth in the best way possible.
So yes, this cornbread is all of the above.
It all started when I woke up having a craving for cornbread. There have been times when I’ve gone to great lengths just to make myself a batch. One time I got dressed, went to the butcher just to pick up hot Italian sausages just so that I could return home, take the meat out of the casings to fry up, so that it could get added to the cornbread batter. And that was my lunch and dinner. Jim was out of town on business, so I could eat whatever I wanted. And I wanted cornbread!! Come on, cornbread with hot sausage, cheddar cheese and onions, dripping in honey when hot out of the oven!! Try and beat that!
This time, I knew I would get up and make cornbread, but I wouldn’t include a run to the grocers. I had rhubarb in the crisper. Surely it would make a great addition, I thought. Then I remembered that I had just picked up some strawberry-scented mint from my favourite organic veg supplier. That would work perfectly with rhubarb. And while the cornbread had honey in it, a natural with the rhubarb, I decided that a touch of heat would also balance the tart sweetness of the ‘fruit’. So cayenne pepper would be added to the batter.
This recipe works amazing in a cast iron skillet. Rubbing all over the inside with a softened piece of butter ensures that a lovely crust forms, as well as allows for perfect release. But if you don’t have a cast iron pan (why not?) you can easily bake this up in a baking pan (8 x 10 inch or 9 inch square) or even baked up as muffins. Just reduce the baking time for the muffins to about 15-20 minutes, but you’ll check.
You don’t need any fancy equipment. A wooden spoon, a couple of bowls, and a whisk or fork. That’s it. Oh of course some measuring cups and spoons. Like most good cornbread, the recipe uses buttermilk. But if you don’t have it in the fridge when the craving strikes, no worries. Just add 1 tbsp of white vinegar to a cup of milk. In no time you’ll have soured milk, which works perfectly. It bakes up perfectly. And it snacks even better. I had to hold back from eating most of it before I could take the photos!! Jim inhaled every piece I handed him. And he doesn’t usually crave cornbread. Serve it with more honey drizzled over it, or a pat of butter on top. But even naked, it’s darn good!
Now that I’ve shared this Springtime twist on cornbread, I should really share my classic savoury cornbread with you all! Coming soon!!
Rhubarb, Mint and Honey Cornbread
The perfect tender, moist cornbread. Not too cakey, not too crumbly. With a balance of honey and cayenne pepper, and the Springtime bonus of rhubarb and mint. What could be better to snack on?
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 cup plus 2 tbsp diced rhubarb , if stalks are thick and wide, slice in half lengthwise as well.
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp softened butter
- 1 cup All Purpose flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or more if you really want to!
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint I used strawberry scented mint, but you can use any mint
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk, see Notes below
- 1/4 cup runny honey
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Place the 4 tbsp of butter in a small pot and melt over low heat. Set aside to cool a touch.
Place the diced rhubarb (should be around 1/2 cubes) in a bowl. Sprinkle with the 1 tbsp sugar. Stir to cover evenly. Set aside.
Take the softened butter and evenly grease a baking pan (it can be a 8 x10 inch, a 9 inch square, or even a 9 or 10 inch cast iron skillet)
In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and cayenne pepper.
Add the chopped fresh mint to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
In a small bowl, gently beat the eggs. Add the buttermilk, the runny honey (spray the measuring cup with non-stick spray first before pouring honey into it- will release much easier!) and the melted butter. Stir to combine.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet ones. Gently combine without over-mixing. It doesn't have to be completely mixed.
Add all but 3 tbsp of the rhubarb pieces to the mixture and give one more good stir to combine.
Pour the batter into the greased pan. Take the remaining 3 tbsp of rhubarb and evenly dot the top of the batter with them, gently pushing them part way in.
Bake on the centre rack until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Depending on the size of the pan, it may take between 20-30 minutes. Start checking at the 20 minute mark just in case.
Cool for about 10 minutes. Slice and serve.
To replace buttermilk, just add 1 tbsp of white vinegar to 1 cup of milk and let sit for about 5 minutes. It will sour perfectly
You can bake up this batter as muffins as well. It will fill about 12 regular sized muffins. Give them about 15-20 minutes in the oven, but check at the 15 minute mark.
I originally found a basic cornbread recipe in my old Bon Appetit magazine collection, and played with it! And this time around I added rhubarb!