Need I elaborate? It’s a universal truth that everything tastes better when cooked in a cast iron pan, and cornbread is one of the foremost examples of food elevated by this humble vessel. You just can’t get those crispy edges, browned by the heat of sizzling bacon drippings, any other way.
(My dearly departed whalecat Harry was not so particular: he once ate the entire soft and springy middle out of a pan of jalapeno-laced cornbread I left to cool on the counter overnight, leaving the edges behind. A gesture of goodwill toward his too-trusting catmom, who learned a valuable lesson about barricading baked goods in that moment? We’ll never know.)
So you’ve got undeniably perfect crispy edges, fragrant with savory bacon fat, balanced against the moist and tender crumb brought to you by the goodness of buttermilk. What could possibly make this more satisfying? Bring the crunch of millet to this equation and you’re in for a triple treat.
If you’ve only known millet as a mushy hippie-era side dish or breakfast cereal, or as a seed that’s literally for the birds, let it showcase its snappy texture here. A little more oversized than other seeds like sesame, flax, or chia, millet has a toasty, satisfying crunch when used as a whole, uncooked grain, adding a little pop to each bite of bread.
Because I’m a Northerner who loves to toast her cornbread and slather it with butter and honey for breakfast, I stir a touch of honey into my batter before pouring it into the skillet. Far from making it a Jiffy-like cakey cornbread, it’s just a whisper of sweetness within the bread, a hint of caramel and clover. Feel free to try different honey varieties, from rich chestnut or buckwheat honey to light and floral alfalfa or wildflower honey, to see which you like best.
Crumble the cornbread for your Thanksgiving stuffing, serve it in thick wedges with your favorite chili or winter stew, or eat it with butter, honey, and jam for a morning indulgence.
Millet Skillet Cornbread
Prep time:10 minutes
Cook time:20 minutes
Total time:30 minutes
Makes about 8 servings
- 1 cup (160 grams) fine yellow cornmeal
- 2/3 cup (80 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) millet
- 1/4 cup (42 grams) stone-ground polenta or cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons (63 grams) honey
- 1 large egg
- 4 tablespoons (57 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons bacon drippings
Place a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Whisk the cornmeal, flour, millet, polenta, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in a large bowl.
In a separate large bowl, stir the honey and egg together with a spatula to loosen up the honey. Stir in the buttermilk, then the melted butter until well incorporated.
Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until combined—don’t overmix the cornbread batter.
When the oven has preheated for 15 minutes, carefully remove the skillet using an oven mitt.
Add the bacon drippings to the skillet and swirl until melted. (If using a pre-divided cornbread pan, as I did for the above photos, add a scant 1/2 teaspoon bacon drippings to each wedge. You’ll likely have leftover batter; bake it in a greased 6-inch cast iron skillet or small ceramic baking dish.)
Pour in the cornbread batter, smoothing the top, and return to the oven.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cornbread is well-browned and domed on top, and a knife or toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.