Sweet Blue Cornbread

I realize I'll probably be offending some people by posting this, but here goes anyway:

I like my cornbread sweet.

And I don't just mean "hint of sweet,"; I mean full-on cake sweet kind of sweet. Preferably served warm for breakfast, with a generous slice of cold salty sweet cream butter set right on top. What can I say? I grew up in New Jersey!

And I really do blame Jersey for my sweet Northern cornbread love. There is a little restaurant that my family and I always used to go to after church on Sundays. It's a tiny place with a big menu featuring big dishes.

Literally. I'm talking six-egg omelettes and bigger-than-the-plate-sized pancakes and about a quart of hash browns per person. Totally ridiculous portion sizes that invariably came home with us in a doggie bag to be snacked on for what felt like weeks, but the most memorable thing...my most favorite thing about this place was the equally generous basket of warm cornbread they'd serve as soon as you sat down.

Piping hot golden squares of cornbread in both plain and chocolate chip, so cakey-soft and so cakey-sweet and so cakey-perfect after having woken up late and skipped breakfast and sat through service with a rumbly tummy. I'd tear my way through that entire basket before even thinking about glancing at my menu--much to the chagrin of my father who then kept having to ask the waitress for "one more minute" before we could finally order.

It's been a few years since we've been back to that place (though I should probably get my dad to take us there one of these days as Eugene is quite the pancake fan and now I'm not going to be able to think about anything else), but every now and then I find myself craving some of that soft, sweet cornbread. Soon after first tasting it there, I started experimenting at home, making batch after batch of cornbread until I got it right.

The other night, while making a pot of chili and wondering what to serve along with it, I decided to give it a shot. I broke out my old high school recipe and dug through the pantry only to find a bag of blue cornmeal instead of the yellow. "This'll work!" I thought, and got to mixing.

The results were lovely! Soft, moist, and sweet, with just a hint of crust along the edges. The blue cornmeal added a lovely texture and beautiful color (just look at the specs of blue!). Plus, there is just something about blue cornmeal that makes it seem healthier. (Even when slathered in butter and sugar!) I served it hot along with the chili that night, and then heated the leftovers in the oven the next morning for breakfast. There was a square or two left on the third day and those came to work with me to enjoy with my morning tea, surprisingly still lovely and moist.

In addition to the blue cornmeal, I used whole wheat pastry flour  in this recipe. It's one of my favorites, and I highly recommend it if you haven't tried it yet; you won't be able to tell the difference from the all-purpose flour, but it's still a bit healthier. That said, you can definitely just use regular all-purpose!

I also used turbinado sugar, with its natural honey-like undertones for a bit of richer sweetness, plus an additional teaspoon of honey. You can also just sub regular white sugar, if you prefer.

I hope you enjoy, and for those of you who just can't wrap your heads around the idea of sweet cornbread, I suggest you just scratch off the "bread" and change it to "cake" before proceeding.

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Sweet Blue Cornbread
Makes about 9 servings

1 cup finely ground blue cornmeal 
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (you can sub all-purpose flour; do NOT use regular whole wheat)
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt or buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and position the rack right in the center. Butter and flour an 8" x 2" square baking pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the blue cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a second large bowl, whisk together the egg, honey, yogurt, vanilla, and oil. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and gently mix until all completely combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving (but make sure it's still warm!). You can serve it and then store the leftovers right in the baking pan (just cover with plastic wrap & store in the fridge); any leftovers can be reheated in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes.

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