Y'know, trips to the mailbox just aren't what they used to be, are they? In fact, they're hardly necessary. A bill or two, a statement or two. The odd old-fashioned if much-appreciated thank you note. But after that? Nothing's left except that which hits the recycling bin with barely a glance.
But when Southern Living magazine hits the mailbox? Be still, my beating heart! Pour a cup of coffee, now please, every month I want to settle in right away, thank you very much. (If this sounds like a paid advertisement, banish the idea! I'm a paid subscriber. Southern Living knows this blogger from nobody.)
Mine may be a northern soul but page after page of Southern Living charms me, the gardening, the artisan wares, the home fashions, the clothes, the travel, the entertaining ideas and yes, the recipes! There was a time, the 1980s and even 1990s I think, when Southern Living recipes all started with processed foods: I was reminded of that when culling cookbooks awhile back, paging through that-era annual Southern Living editions and plopped them onto the book-sale pile. Today Southern Living recipes are mostly approachable, made-from-scratch, family-friendly recipes with a southern twist.
I clipped this recipe for Sweet Potato Cornbread back in 2012, it won't take two years to make it again! At first I was tempted to just add sweet potato to either my long-time favorite Skillet Cornbread or to this made-it-soooo-many-times Simple Cast Iron Southern Corn Bread. But the ratio of ingredients was so different – five eggs, really? an entire cup of sour cream? – that I stuck with Southern Living's ingredient list and am glad of it.
This cornbread recipe calls for a full two cups of sweet potatoes, that's an entire pound! That's in contrast to other recipes that add a tablespoon or two, just for vegetable-virtue. This cornbread is all about the sweet potato! Its presence is obvious at first glance, thanks to the lovely golden color. But it's also present in the moist crumb. Lawdy-lawdy, you can even taste the sweet potato!
I did employ two of my favorite tricks for excellent cornbread, choosing coarse stone-ground cornmeal (a whole food, with the germ intact) and pre-heating the cast iron skillet for a chewy crust. You're gonna love this cornbread, I think!
RECIPE for SWEET POTATO CORNBREAD
Time to table: 1 hour
Makes 12 "squares"
Bacon grease, olive oil or butter
5 large eggs, whisked
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4oz/113g) salted butter, melted
2 cups (16oz/454g ) cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
1 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (300g) stone-ground cornmeal
2 tablespoons (yes, tablespoons) baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
PREHEAT SKILLET Set oven at 425F. Rub a cast iron skillet with bacon grease, olive oil or butter and place in the oven to heat up along with the oven.
MIX In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the sour cream and sugar, then the butter and sweet potatoes. Measure the cornmeal, baking powder and salt into the bowl, right in the center in a big pile. With a fork, gently turn the baking powder and salt into the cornmeal, without mixing it into the wet ingredients below. Then whisk the cornmeal into the wet mixture, whisking just until combined.
BAKE Turn batter into the hot skillet and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
SERVE Cut into squares or slices to serve warm if you like (wondrous!) or let cool, cover and serve later in the day (moist and flavorful!).
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
SOUR CREAM I used full-fat sour cream because it was on hand but would use low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt as substitutes another time. I don't recommend non-fat sour cream though do like some non-fat Greek yogurts, especially Fage and Chobani.
MELTING BUTTER If you like, cut the butter in cubes and separate in a microwave safe dish. To prevent splattering, microwave 10 or 15 seconds at a time until fully melted.
COOKING THE SWEET POTATOES It took about 1-1/2 pounds of sweet potatoes to yield 2 cups of mashed cooked sweet potato. Any of the cooking methods listed with the sweet potato recipes would work but I cooked peeled sweet potato chunks in well-salted water on the stove until soft. I really liked that the seasoning in the final product but have been told by a good friend/trusted cook that she finds my recipes salty.
SWEET POTATO COLOR I cooked the sweet potatoes a day ahead of time. Busy in the kitchen with other things, I left the cooked/drained sweet potatoes on the counter for maybe 30 minutes and was completely surprised that the outer edges turned brown. It didn't hurt their taste but I think the color would have been even more golden if I'd mashed the sweet potatoes right away.
STONE-GROUND CORNMEAL "BUMPS" The four-year old twins were less impressed by the "bumps" of the coarser stone-ground cornmeal. For kids at the table, next time I'll split the batters in two, baked in the same skillet, half with stone-ground cornmeal and half the grocery-store style yellow cornmeal.
CAST-IRON SKILLET I love the chewy crust that a cast-iron skillet gives to cornbread, especially when it's preheated while you're mixing the cornbread batter. But Southern Living suggests a 9x9 square pan. An 8x8 pan may work too but would make for one very full pan. The batter doesn't "puff up" much though, it comes out about the same height as it goes into the pan.
WEDGES vs SQUARES For years, I've cut cornbread cooked in a round cast-iron skillet into wedges, it just seemed like the "right" thing to do. This time, though, because the cornbread was quite rich, I cut the cornbread into squares right in the skillet. This made for 10 generous squares plus a few small corner pieces perfect for snacking. Love it!
MAKE-AHEAD To make ahead by a few hours, mix the wet ingredients and separately mix the dry ingredients but don't combine them, refrigerate the wet ingredients. Just before baking, heat the oven and the skillet, combine the wet and dry ingredients and bake.
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