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Spicy Cheese Cornbread

Greg Patent the baking wizard's spicy and cheesy cornbread

Squares of hot spicy and cheesy cornbread await being buttered and eaten.

Years ago, when I was young, Carl and Shirley Sontheimer, then owners of Cuisinarts, Inc., hired me to travel all over the country to teach people how to use the food processor. One of the many recipes I created was, “Yogurt and Jalapeño Corn Bread.” I demonstrated it all over the country and people raved about it, and I included it in a book of food processor recipes and techniques, “Patently Easy Food Prcessor Cooking.” As the years passed, I lost track of the recipe until recently when I was making a beef and bean chili and my wife said, “Why don’t you make that yogurt cornbread to go with it?”  “Terrific idea, dear!”, I yelped. “I’ll do it.”  In the original recipe I used the food processor to shred the cheese, chop the chiles and onion (I now use shallot), cut the butter into the dry ingredients, and mix in the yogurt and eggs with a few quick pulses. If you have a food processor, you’re most welcome to make the recipe that way.

Lacking a food processor, just follow the directions in the recipe here. This cornbread is moist, has a slight tang from the yogurt, and is great with chili or any time you’re serving something saucy. You can use any cornmeal you like, yellow or white, stone ground or not. I add the bit of sugar to balance the yogurt’s tang, but you can omit it if you like.

After playing around with the recipe some more, it told me to up kick up the spiciness a bit. Recipes do have a mind of their own, you know. This cornbread loves butter, and it also loves to sop up sauces.

Spicy and Cheesy Cornbread

1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry measure, fill to overflowing, and sweep off excess with a straight edge)

2/3 cup (4 ounces) yellow or white cornmeal

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda (see NOTE)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 equal pieces

2 jalapeño or Serrano chiles, halved, seeded, and finely chopped

2 tablespoons minced shallot

4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar or pepper jack cheese, shredded

1 cup plain unflavored Greek yogurt, any fat content

3 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (Tabasco), or to taste

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together thoroughly the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and black pepper. Add the cold butter and cut it into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two knives until particles are in tiny pieces. If you prefer, just reach into the bowl with your hands like I do and pinch the butter and flour together rapidly to make fine particles. Stir in the chiles, shallot, and half the shredded cheese; reserve remaining cheese to sprinkle on top of batter.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs and hot pepper sauce to combine well. Add to the dry ingredients and stir together with a flexible spatula to make a thick batter. Spread level in the prepared pan and scatter the reserved cheese over the top.
  4. Bake about 30 minutes, until the top is slightly domed, flecked with golden brown cheese, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Cool a few minutes before cutting and serving. Cut the cornbread into squares, split them horizontally, and spread with plenty of butter.

Makes 8 or 9 portions.

NOTE: Increase baking soda to 1 teaspoon at sea level.

 

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