If there is any food that represents the cuisine of the Southern United States any better than grits, it’s going to be cornbread. Cornbread is a massive staple in the diet of people who live in the southern portion of the United States.
It is an extremely simple dish to make, but as many bakers will come to learn, there are many dishes that may come across as simple at first but may present a number of problems.
The nature of cornbread is something that a lot of people aren’t entirely used to. With the name of “bread,” one would think that it is supposed to stick together and remain whole, much like your standard bread.
However, cornbread is a little bit different in the sense that it is supposed to have a little bit of crumble to it. The slight crumble of cornbread is one of the facets that makes it so appealing to eat for many people.
With that being said, there comes a time when you have to decide how much crumble is too much. If you pick up a slice of cornbread and a few pieces fall off of it, then there’s a good chance that that slice of cornbread is well within the limits of normal crumble.
On the other hand, if you try to pick up a piece of cornbread and the whole thing seemingly disintegrates in your hand, then you are dealing with cornbread that is too crumbly.
Whether you realize that your current cornbread recipe leaves too much crumble for your cornbread to really be viable, or you simply want to make firmer cornbread, there are a few different ways that you can go about preventing the problem from happening again.
Unfortunately, once the cornbread leaves your oven, there isn’t too much that you can do to reverse the crumbling problem. There are, however, a few different routes that you can take to prevent the problem from occurring before you get started.
The solution that works best for you is going to depend on what type of cornbread you are working with, whether you are baking it from scratch or you are using boxed mixes, and what exactly you are looking for from your cornbread recipe.
To begin, let’s start with one of the easiest types of cornbread to make: boxed mixes.
Fixing a Boxed Mix
If you notice that your box of cornbread mix doesn’t give you the kind of cornbread that you are looking for, you may feel at a loss as to what you should do or how you should handle the situation.
After all, if you are putting in all of the ingredients as suggested and following the cooking instructions, there isn’t much more that you can do to prevent the problem, right?
The truth is that you can actually alter boxed cornbread recipes to ensure that there will only be the standard amount of crumbling in your cornbread.
One of the easiest ways to get the job done in altering your boxed cornbread recipe is to simply double the ingredients, using two boxes of the mix and twice the amount of ingredients.
This can sometimes help the cornbread retain its shape a little bit better, and if you are cooking it in the same size pan, then you can expect that the cornbread will be a bit more concentrated.
When this happens, the cornbread will become thicker and better bonded, meaning that you won’t have to worry about the cornbread crumbling apart again.
Fixing Standard Cornbread
There are some other solutions that you can try for fixing a cornbread but keep in mind that when you are first altering your recipes, you are going to only want to use one solution at a time.
This will give you a better idea of which solution is working best for you. As for those solutions, you can also consider trying one of the following:
- Adding an extra egg to the recipe
- Adding an extra ¾ cup of sour cream to the recipe
- Adding one tablespoon of olive oil to the recipe
- Adding creamed corn to the recipe
- Replacing regular milk with buttermilk
Each and every one of these choices will add some extra binding liquid to the cornbread to help it keep its shape a bit better.
When the cornbread is able to keep its shape without a problem, you won’t have to think twice about your boxed cornbread turning up crumbling again, as you will soon know which solution is going to work best for your method of cooking cornbread.
Choosing to add an extra egg (or even just the egg yolk) will provide the fat and proteins that the mix needs to bind to itself properly, resulting in a minimally crumbling cornbread dish.
The whole egg may work better, as the egg white can also count as a wet ingredient with binding properties, but the yolk is going to be the most important aspect of this. Olive oil can also create a similar effect as egg whites can.
You can add anywhere between ½ of a cup to ¾ of a cup of sour cream to your cornbread. As you might be able to imagine, doing this will provide both fat and moisture, both of which play a massive role in making sure that the cornbread ingredients bind together the way that they should.
The more sour cream you add, the more binding agents you will be adding to the cornbread, so keep that in mind.
Creamed corn is a great way to not only enhance that corn-based flavor of cornbread, but it is also a good way to subtly introduce moisture and fat content into the recipe without deviating from the flavor in a noticeable way.
Cornbread has always had a vague corn-like taste to it, as one would expect, and by adding the creamed corn to your cornbread to thicken it, nobody would think twice about the stronger and more enjoyable flavor of your new cornbread.
Finally, replacing any regular milk or water with buttermilk will also play a role in keeping your cornbread solid. The fats in buttermilk that aren’t there in standard milk help to break down some of the tougher gluten molecules in the cornbread.
This will leave your cornbread tender and moist, able to stick to itself enough so that it doesn’t crumble into a mess the moment that you touch it.
Another option that you could consider would be adding grated cheese whenever you are mixing the wet ingredients together. While grated cheese certainly isn’t a grated ingredient in it of itself, it can act as a binding agent along with the rest of the wet ingredients that you are using.
What’s more is that it will melt into the rest of the cornbread when you get around to baking it, adding a richer flavor to your cornbread alongside the moisture content.
Moistening the Cornmeal
If you are worried about it becoming too dry during the baking process, which will often lead to crumbling cornbread, you can also take a proactive step before you begin the baking process.
You can take approximately half of the cornmeal (unless you’re making cornbread without cornmeal) that you are going to be using in your recipe and you will want to moisten it gently. This will ensure that this moistened half of the cornmeal is not going to become dry and crumbly when you put the cornbread into the oven.
The best way to moisten your cornmeal without turning it into a paste is going to be to place the amount that you plan on moistening in a separate bowl. You will want to have some boiling water by your side when you do this, as you are going to need to pour just enough of that boiling water onto the cornmeal to just cover it.
You will then want to stir or whisk the water into the cornmeal to form a slush-like consistency.
With that cornmeal slush, you are then going to want to proceed adding wet ingredients together as you normally would, and this will include the unmoistened cornmeal as well.
Once those ingredients are in the bowl together and ready to be mixed and added with the dry ingredients, you are going to want to add the cornmeal mush that you have just made to the wet ingredients.
The extra thickness of this mush is going to do you wonders in making sure that your cornbread is going to have more than enough moisture, fats, and substance to stick to each other. This is meant to be your goal when you are purposefully making cornbread that will crumble as minimally as possible.
Before you know it, you will be able to take the cornbread out of your oven and you won’t have to worry about cutting it apart because it will stay together exactly as cornbread should.
With these methods, you will never have to worry about cleaning up the countless cornbread crumbs that come with a hearty southern meal ever again.
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.