I got the chance to talk with celeb chef Alex Guarnaschelli last weekend at the Fantastic Food Fest in Indianapolis, and among the topics our conversation touched on was cornbread, specifically whether her recipe includes sugar.
Short answer: It does.
Which makes sense, as she’s from New York. Apparently, it’s a northern thing to add sugar to cornbread, and the sugar/no sugar debate is well documented here and here (including the acknowledgement that, yes, there are some southern cooks who do add sugar).
We even address the issue in Café Indiana Cookbook. My Minnesota-born co-author included her recipe for cornbread with sugar, and I added my southern-style version without. Since my folks are from southeastern Kentucky, the cornbread that I grew up on was definitely of the southern persuasion, that is to say no sugar and very little flour. That’s the kind of cornbread that was served with soup beans or fried chicken when I was growing up, the kind that my dad would crumble into a glass of buttermilk for a bedtime snack.
But you never know. I wouldn’t want to snub a delicious piece of cornbread just because it doesn’t have a southern accent, bless its heart.
So I gave it a try.
And it’s very good, and good-looking too. While sweet, the sugar didn’t overwhelm the taste of the cornmeal. It has a lovely texture, but very fine and crumbly, so it didn’t really hold up to spreading the butter very well. As is often said of northern-style cornbread, it was cake like. Imagine trying to spread butter on a slice of cake, and you’ll see my problem. It definitely wouldn’t hold up to dunking into soup beans.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a tasty cornbread. I just prefer a sturdier version. One that holds up to the butter. And, yes, one that isn’t sweet.
I’ll post my interview with Alex soon. I also talked with her on Eat Drink Indy Radio to preview the Fantastic Food Fest. You can find that interview here.