The Secret Ingredient to Making Boxed Cornbread Mix Even Better
It may not be from scratch, but it sure tastes like it. Mama will never know.
Many Southern cooks enjoy making everything from scratch, from simple salad dressings to elaborate cakes to pans of hot cornbread. Sometimes, though, either due to lack of planning on your part or a last-minute request, it is best to use a convenience food product rather than making something from scratch. There is no shame in making cakes or brownies from a box mix. I love to bake from scratch but I have often used a packaged corn bread mix, adding add a little extra something to the ingredients to make the finished product taste more homemade. I would say my favorite thing to add is sugar, but that is a hot topic for another conversation! Beyond that, my favorite thing to add to a package of cornbread mix is sour cream.
Most cornbread mixes contain relatively little fat, compared to cakes or cupcakes. A hot pan of cornbread doesn't need much to be tasty, but even a small increase in the amount of fat can make cornbread moister and richer. Prepare the cornbread mix according to package instructions, and add two tablespoons of sour cream, stirring well to incorporate it into the batter. If your cornbread mix uses oil as a fat, substitute an equal amount of melted butter or bacon grease for the oil. Either of these two ingredients will add their extra flavor and richness to your cornbread.
Beyond adding or changing the fat, there are other ways to make your cornbread mix taste homemade. If you are making a package mix you probably don't have time to cut fresh kernels off an ear of corn, but you can open a can of corn or pull a bag out of the freezer (no need to thaw the kernels) and stir in as much as you like. Start with half a cup. If you want your cornbread cornier, stir in more. Need more ideas? Stir in diced jalapeno peppers, grated cheese, chopped country ham, or crumbled bacon. Bacon makes everything better, right?
Ok, we really can't have a discussion about making cornbread mix better without talking about sweetening the mix. Sorry, but I like sugar in my cornbread. I was born of Southern parents and reared with the best of Southern customs and values, but I still like sugar in my cornbread. Just a tablespoon or two helps to make the cornbread bottom crunchy, while creating a caramelized, crunchy top. I love this effect when I make mini cornbread muffins.
After you make your recipe tweaks, follow the package instructions for baking, and check for doneness with a wooden skewer. Some stir-ins may add a couple of minutes to the bake time, so checking for doneness is important.