Cornbread is by nature slightly crumbly, but the right moist ingredients work wonders to help keep the quick bread from falling apart completely. Use the same ingredients, but in different amounts, whether 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 more dense texture.
Naturally moist ingredients keep cornbread from crumbling and don't affect the recipe even if the ingredient isn't called for -- use anywhere from 1/2 to 1 cup of these ingredients. In other cases, you can substitute a moist ingredient for a drier one or add more of a moist ingredient already called for in your original recipe. Experiment with these ideas:
- Substitute buttermilk for the milk or water called for in your recipe. Carolyn Well, an editor at Fine Cooking, explains that buttermilk breaks down the tough gluten molecules in flour and keeps cornbread tender and moist.
- Include 1/2 cup of sour cream in 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 sauteed leeks or onions, 1/2 cup of diced red bell peppers or 1 finely minced jalapeno pepper.
Moistening half the cornmeal called for in a cornbread recipe helps keep the bread tender and moist, especially if you use stone-ground coarse cornmeal, which is drier than more processed 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.
To keep your cornbread more moist:
- Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients only until the combined. Overmixing 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.