This bacon cornbread, a Southern staple, is made with corn kernels, bacon—LOTSA bacon—and cornmeal that’s soaked in milk to produce an incredibly tender, cake-like, almost pudding-like texture.
There’s cornbread. And then there’s cornbread enhanced with bacon, corn, and good ol’ bacon drippings. Just as God intended, according to some. And the texture? Long slow whistle. It’s tender and cake-like but without being super sweet! Spoonable and soft and moist and lovely. As a couple of our testers commented, sorta like the love child between that of a classic cornbread and spoon pudding. An unapologetically richer, slightly sweeter, unspeakably moister cornbread than Southerns swear by yet it’s still gosh darn versatile as can be. Originally published August 9, 2001.–Renee Schettler Rossi
- Quick Glance
- 35 M
- 1 H, 30 M
- Makes one 10-inch bread
- 1 cup coarse cornmeal, also labeled on packages as “polenta”
- 2 cups buttermilk, either low-fat or full-fat
- 8 ounces (8 to 10 slices) bacon
- 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 1/2 cups (16 ounces) fresh or frozen corn
- 2 tablespoons bacon drippings or mild vegetable oil
- 1. Several hours before baking the cornbread (ie the night before or the morning of), combine the cornmeal and buttermilk in a bowl. Cover and let the cornmeal soak at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.
- 2. The next day, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- 3. Place the bacon on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until the bacon is crisp, 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of your bacon. Using tongs or a fork, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Drain the fat from the baking sheets into a stainless-steel bowl and reserve it. When the bacon has cooled, crumble it into coarse pieces.
- 4. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F (175°C). Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Stir in the granulated and brown sugars. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Dissolve the honey in the melted butter and then stir the warm honey-butter mixture into the eggs. Add this to the soaked cornmeal mixture. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a large spoon or whisk until all the ingredients are evenly distributed and the batter is blended and smooth. It should be the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Stir in the corn kernels until evenly distributed.
- 5. Place 2 tablespoons rendered bacon fat into a 10-inch round cake pan, a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, or a 12-inch square pan. Place the pan in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the fat gets quite hot. Using pot holders or oven mitts, remove the pan, and tilt it to coat all the corners and sides. Scrape in the cornbread batter, spreading it from the center of the pan to the edges. Sprinkle the crumbled bacon pieces evenly over the top over the cornbread batter, gently pressing them into the batter.
- 6. Bake the bacon cornbread for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cornbread is firm and springy (the baking time will depend on the size of the pan) and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top will be a medium golden brown. The internal temperature at the center of the bacon cornbread should register at least 185°F (85°C).
- 7. Let the bacon cornbread cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing it into squares or wedges. Serve warm.
Bacon Cornbread Muffins Variation
- If, like us, you swoon to the crusty corner pieces—you know, the ones with ample contrast of crunchy exterior to super duper moist interior—you may wish to consider increasing the exterior surface area of each serving by making muffins with this batter. Just fill a dozen or so buttered muffin cups and bake at 350°F (175°C) for about 30 minutes, until the center of each muffin is springy when you gently nudge it with your finger. You’re welcome.