Perfectly baked cornbread should be slightly crumbly, but there's actually a super thin line between flawlessly moist and completely falling apart. To avoid this unfortunate misstep use the same ingredients but in different amounts when you're making Northern cornbread, typically made with equal amounts of flour and cornmeal for a cakelike, fluffy texture, or Southern cornbread, with no flour at all and a denser texture.
These naturally moist ingredients keep cornbread from crumbling and don't affect the recipe even if they're not called for, so go ahead and use anywhere from 1/2 to 1 cup of them. In other cases you can substitute a moist ingredient for a drier one or add more of a moist ingredient that's already part of the recipe. Experiment with these ideas:
- Substitute buttermilk for the milk or water called for in your recipe. Buttermilk breaks down the tough gluten molecules in flour and keeps cornbread tender and moist.
- Include 1/2 cup of sour cream with the wet ingredients for extra fat and moisture.
- Add grated cheese when you mix the wet ingredients. Cheddar or pepper jack add flavor and moisture to the bread.
- Include a can of creamed corn or corn kernels to increase flavor and moisture. Creamed corn blends into the batter more fully than corn kernels, which add texture along with flavor.
- Add an extra egg yolk or whole egg to your recipe.
Add one or more additional ingredients to give your cornbread extra flavor and moisture, such as 1/2 cup of thinly sliced green onions, 1 cup of thinly sliced sautéed leeks or onions, 1/2 cup of diced red bell peppers or 1 finely minced jalapeño pepper.
Moistening half the cornmeal called for in a cornbread recipe helps keep the bread tender, especially if you use stone-ground coarse cornmeal. Place 1/3 of the cornmeal called for in the recipe in a separate bowl and pour in enough boiling water to just moisten the cornmeal. Stir or whisk the water into the cornmeal to form a mush and then proceed with adding the eggs and other wet ingredients.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients only until they're combined. Over-mixing causes more glutens to form in the flour and results in drier cornbread.
More cornmeal than flour in Southern-style cornbread results in drier, more crumbly bread. To keep Southern-style cornbread moist, substitute flour for a few tablespoons of the cornmeal.