Across the entirety of the Southern United States, there is nothing that is as much of a staple as cornbread is.
Cornbread is a wonderful addition to any homely dinner and it can add a great taste when you are soaking up the rest of a leftover stew with a bit of cornbread. However, as with many things in life, it isn’t always easy to try and replicate the best cornbread that you have ever had.
Cornbread, in it of itself, is not a difficult recipe to make. It is fairly straightforward and it is not complicated to handle once you get all of the ingredients. It is one of those recipes that is easy to learn but much harder to master.
There are many nuances that come with making cornbread that can turn it into more of an ordeal than you may expect.
One of the biggest problems that people run into when making cornbread is that it often ends up being too dry, crumbly, and unable to keep its shape the way that bread should keep its shape. This can lead to a dinnertime disappointment when you try to serve the dry cornbread.
Nobody really enjoys dry cornbread. Thankfully, there are more than a few different methods that you can rely on to keep your cornbread moist.
To meet that fine line between a naturally crumbly cornbread and a dry piece of food, you will want to make sure that you are more or less following the recipe of a cornbread that you have historically had good results from.
What this means is that you should be working with a cornbread recipe that you are familiar with, as you will be adding ingredients to it to try and improve the moisture levels of it so that you can have the perfect bread for your dinner.
For the most part, making sure that a cornbread recipe is moist will involve altering the recipe and making sure there is enough potential for moisture to exist within the recipe. You cannot really keep any moisture in the cornbread if there wasn’t any there to begin with.
Once you have a moist cornbread recipe, from there, you can begin to learn the best ways to keep cornbread moist when you are not eating it.
Creating Moist Cornbread
There are more than a few different ways to introduce moisture to your cornbread recipe. This is going to be the starting point in keeping any cornbread moist after you have finished cooking it because, again, you cannot retain any moisture that was not there to begin with.
By adding more moisture to the recipe, there will be more moisture to eventually keep in the bread as you save it for later dishes.
Most of what is involved in making moist cornbread is introducing more “wet” ingredients into the recipe. Because there are so many different additions you can make in this regard, you are going to want to make sure that you choose one that suits your tastes in particular.
For example, you can choose between adding a can of creamed corn or grated cheese. Creamed corn will add a cornier flavor to the bread, while cheese may add a different flavor profile.
All of these additions will have the same end result of moistening up the cornbread recipe and allowing for more water to be kept in the bread.
To begin with, you can substitute buttermilk or standard cow’s milk for any water that is called for in the recipe, or just use buttermilk when your recipe calls for standard milk.
Buttermilk is known for doing a better job of breaking down some of the various gluten molecules in flour, and when gluten is broken down without doing its job of toughening the bread, it allows for a more tender and moist result.
Likewise, cow’s milk is harder on gluten molecules than water is, so if you do not have buttermilk and the recipe calls for water, you can opt for using regular milk instead.
You can include about one half of a cup of sour cream to mix in with the rest of the wet ingredients of your cornbread recipe. Sour cream will add extra fat and extra moisture to the recipe while also adding a bit of a heavier texture and flavor to the cornbread’s final result.
The best part about adding sour cream to your recipe is that it can significantly increase the amount of moisture present in the cornbread, despite what you might expect from adding cornbread.
Because sour cream tends to have a strong taste to it, you will want to make sure that you are careful at first so that you do not potentially ruin your perfect cornbread.
Rather than sour cream, when you are mixing the wet ingredients of the cornbread, you can add some grated cheese instead. You should add between half a cup and one full cup of grated cheese, depending on preferences and taste.
Typically, people who choose to do this will opt for cheddar or pepper jack cheeses, as these can add the right boost of flavor while also adding to the moisture content of the cornbread.
Cheese can also do well in keeping the cornbread’s structure so it does not fall apart the moment you take it out of the pan.
As mentioned earlier, you can either add creamed corn or corn kernels to the recipe to add another level of both the classic corn flavor of cornbread and some extra moisture.
Creamed corn tends to do better when you are trying to add moisture to the recipe without altering the texture of the bread too much, as the already creamed kernels will blend into the batter more easily than full kernels.
However, both will work for adding more substance to the bread, which is the perfect thing you will want when you are trying to add moisture to your cornbread so that you can keep it from drying out over time.
Finally, you can choose to add either one extra egg yolk or add a full egg to the recipe. Including the egg whites along with the yolk can add to the texture of the cornbread, as egg whites tend to carry a lot of proteins in them that affect the texture of baked goods.
The egg yolk carries most of the fat content of the egg, and this is going to be the most important aspect of it when you are trying to keep cornbread moist, as the fat of the egg will help retain the moisture in the bread overall, which is why other additions you can make to affect the moisture are often high-fat options.
For these additions, you can expect that the texture and taste of the cornbread will change accordingly. Naturally, adding more corn to the bread will enhance and strengthen the corn flavoring, while adding an egg will make the bread have an eggier flavor, and adding buttermilk will add a creamier taste than water.
These are all aspects to consider when you are trying to decide what addition you should make to ensure that your cornbread will have enough moisture in it to last you for a fair amount of time, even after the bread is fresh out of the oven.
Keeping Cornbread Moist After It Has Been Served
Over time, your cornbread is going to naturally dry out. This is inevitable and it is something to consider when you are trying to decide how much cornbread you want to make for yourself.
As cornbread ages, it will begin to dry out and there will come a point when the cornbread will be too dry to practically try and revive and remoisten it.
With that being said, there are some things to consider to try and preserve what moisture you can within the cornbread. For instance, most people tend to reheat cornbread when planning on eating it again, as cornbread is significantly better when it is warmed up.
Most people will quickly warm their cornbread in the microwave, which is notorious for taking the moisture out of the bread and leaving you with a dry carcass of what used to be good cornbread.
When microwaving the cornbread, you will want to make sure that you put a paper towel on top of the cornbread. This ensures that the steam that the cornbread will release is trapped by that paper towel, and because the towel is right on top of the cornbread, it will naturally reabsorb some of that moisture back into it.
This isn’t a fool-proof method of keeping cornbread moist, but taking any and all the steps you can take to keep the bread moist will go a long way when you put them together.
If you are heating the bread up in the oven, remember to cover it with tin foil for similar reasons. Doing this ensures that the top of the bread doesn’t overcook, which would lead to drying the bread out.
It doesn’t do as good a job of allowing the bread to reabsorb lost moisture from the steam, but at the same time, the environment of an oven doesn’t allow for the same loss of moisture as a microwave does, meaning that these two methods equal each other out when you do them the right way.
Finally, when the cornbread is done cooking, you will want to put some butter on top of it. The butter will not only help to enhance the flavor, as cornbread always goes well with a little bit of a buttery taste to it, but it will also help to reintroduce some fat and moisture into the cornbread.
Both the addition of the moisture of the butter and the fat from the melting butter will give the taste as if your cornbread never lost any of its moisture.
This method, along with making sure that you put enough moisture into the ingredients of the bread, ensures that even if your cornbread has been reheated once, or even twice, it can still taste as good and as moist as when you first took it out of the oven.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.