Yes, this particular cornbread is thoroughly corny. In fact, it has three kinds of corn in it:
Fresh corn kernels.
Yup, you read that right.
This inventive recipe immediately caught my eye because it includes popcorn that’s pulverized in a food processor until it becomes popcorn flour. Whatever you do, just don’t sneeze or be near a fan when you make this flour because the particles are so light, that it doesn’t take much for them to go flying everywhere.
The popcorn flour is combined with fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels, cornmeal, leaveners, eggs, buttermilk, and a little sugar. The latter ingredient can be controversial among cornbread purists, but this remains a cornbread that’s not overtly sweet at all.
Butter gets melted in a cast-iron skillet in a hot oven. The butter is then stirred into the bowl of batter, before its contents all go back into the skillet to bake in the oven.
The cast-iron pan gives this cornbread an especially crisp, crusty exterior. This is not a fluffy, cake-like cornbread by any means. It’s a little denser, with a slightly grainy texture, and a bit of crunch here and there from the stone-ground corn meal. The popcorn flour ups the corn taste even more.
Enjoy wedges warm with butter, and a little honey, if you like. The cornbread is a little drier tasting the next day. But just toast slabs in a hot skillet to enjoy, smeared with jam, or alongside breakfast eggs.
The recipe calls for 2 cups of popped popcorn, which amounts to 2 tablespoons of popcorn kernels. Of course, you’ll probably want to make extra. After all, once that irresistible movie theater-smell starts wafting through your kitchen, you know you won’t be able to restrain yourself from scarfing a handful or two.
(Makes one 9-inch round loaf)
2 cups popped popcorn, preferably unsalted (see Note)
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or thawed frozen
1 3/4 cups cornmeal, preferably medium-grind stone-ground
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, in one piece, plus more for serving if desired
Heat the oven to 375 degrees convection (400 degrees non-convection) with a rack near the center.
Make the popcorn flour: Put the popcorn in a food processor and process until you have a coarse meal that resembles a mix of regular and pearl couscous, about 1 minute. You can also use a blender, but unless it’s a commercial-grade, grind the popcorn 1 cup at a time.
Dry the corn kernels if necessary: If using thawed corn kernels, spread them on a towel to dry; this prevents adding extra moisture to the batter.
Mix the dry and wet ingredients (separately): Combine the popcorn flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in a wide bowl. Add salt — 1/2 teaspoon if you started with salted popcorn; 1 teaspoon if you used unsalted. Whisk to combine. Whisk together the eggs and buttermilk in a separate bowl.
Heat the skillet and lightly brown the butter: Put the butter, in one piece, in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet (or 9-inch cake pan) and slide into the oven. Heat until the butter has fully melted and is just beginning to brown (it should smell faintly toasty), 6 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the wet and dry ingredients: Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir with a silicone spatula just to combine. Fold in the corn kernels.
Add the butter and bake: Remove the skillet (or cake pan) from the oven and pour the melted butter into the batter; don’t bother to scrape the skillet; any butter remaining will work to grease the pan. Set the skillet on a heatproof surface while you quickly stir the batter to incorporate the butter, then immediately pour the batter into the hot skillet. Bake until the top of the cornbread is firm and golden, the edges are starting to pull away from the sides of the skillet, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
Serve: Let the cornbread cool for about 10 minutes before flipping out of the pan and cutting into wedges. Store any leftovers, wrapped in reusable food wrap or plastic, at room temperature for a day or two.
Note: To pop 2 cup of popcorn for the recipe, start with 2 tablespoons of popcorn kernels.
From “All About Dinner” by Molly Stevens
More Molly Stevens Recipes to Try: Simmered Asparagus with Orange and Mint
Plus Another Corn Bread Recipe To Enjoy: Honey-Glazed Spago Corn Bread