Edna Lewis was as spare with her words as she was her ingredients, choosing each with consideration and care so as to allow its essence to speak for itself. So although this simple, soulful recipe may seem remiss by today’s standards, seeing as it lacked any sort of preamble or rambling ode, in her mind, there wasn’t any need for that. I can’t say as I disagree.–Edna Lewis
LC Simple is as Simple Does Note
Spoon bread is so-called because it’s supposed to be so soft that you can’t cut it with a knife as you do corn bread, explains LC recipe tester and Southern food aficionado Karen Depp, who likens the consistency to that of a soft pudding as opposed to a sturdy corn bread. Ms. Lewis liked to serve this simple, creamy, satiating pudding of sorts for supper alongside whole scallions sweated in butter over a low flame in a covered pan. We won’t object to that. Nor will we object to serving this spoon bread at breakfast with eggs sunny-side up along with those scallions…or perhaps country ham and a generous drizzle of maple syrup…or, well, you tell us.
- 1 1/2-quart souffle dish or a 8-inch square baking dish
- 1 cup white cornmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1/3 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder (Ms. Lewis preferred Royal brand, although chances are any kind will make do)
- 3 large eggs lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter plus loads more for serving
- 2 cups buttermilk (either low-fat or full-fat)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (204° C).
- Sift the cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl and combine. Make a well in the center. Dump the beaten eggs into the well but do not incorporate them yet.
- Place the butter in a 1 1/2-quart souffle dish or a 8-inch square baking dish and put it in the oven just until the butter melts. (You don’t want to preheat the dish as long as you would, say, a cast-iron skillet in which you intend to bake corn bread. Such a high heat could cause the spoon bread to separate.)
- Now vigorously stir the eggs into the cornmeal mixture. Then add the buttermilk, stirring well. (You want to be certain to thoroughly incorporate everything or this, too, could cause the spoon bread to separate. This means you want to be certain that the beaters or spoon reaches all the way to the bottom of the bowl. Sometimes using a handheld beater as opposed to a stand mixer works better.)
- Now carefully remove the hot dish from the oven and tilt it around to slick the entire surface with butter. Tip any excess butter from the dish into the batter and stir quickly to incorporate, then pour the batter into the hot baking dish.
- Bake the spoon bread for 35 minutes. Spoon it hot from the dish with loads of fresh butter on the side.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Spoon bread isn’t as well-known as cornbread outside the South, and that’s a shame—it would appeal to many non-Southerners who find traditional cornbread unappealing. Spoon bread is eggy, rich, and soft, and you scoop it right out of the pan with a spoon. This recipe from Edna Lewis is spot-on. Follow it as written, and you’ll have a perfect example of the Southern specialty. You may think that with the quantity of buttermilk called for, the end result would taste tangy, but it doesn’t—it actually has a surprising sweetness to it. While it’s intended as a side dish at the dinner table, I have to admit that I ate the leftovers for breakfast, with fruit and a drizzle of syrup. Delicious.
This is a light-as-air spoon bread, with a delicate flavor that could live on a breakfast, lunch, or dinner menu. The recipe itself is simple, straightforward, and easy to prepare. Living in the land of grits is a wonderful thing, and this is a nice permutation of the ground-corn offering. I’m not sure why white cornmeal is specified, though. The next time I make this, I’ll use yellow stone-ground cornmeal to see if there’s anything other than a color difference. Stay tuned…
I really enjoyed this dish. I can’t compare it to other spoon breads as this is the first one I’ve had, but I loved the soufflé-like quality and the ease with which this came together. I went with the suggested buttermilk (low-fat), and I recommend this instead of plain milk, as there was an extra dimension that the tanginess brought to the sweetness of the cornmeal and the richness of the eggs and butter. I had to bake this for 5 minutes longer than suggested. The spoon bread paired well with a mixed green salad and sausage. I’m tempted to throw in some sharp cheddar the next time I make this!
Lawd, I love this recipe, and bless Edna Lewis for sharing it. I like to use finely milled white cornmeal along with the best buttermilk for an airy, light, and spoon-tender “soufflé.” A dribble of melted butter is good, but a slight drizzle of maple syrup takes it to a new level. Be sure that you don’t overheat your baking dish—you want it just hot enough to melt the butter—otherwise the spoon bread might separate into layers.
Originally published April 13, 2011